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Proton Therapy for Brain Cancer

If you or someone you love is suffering from brain cancer, you are certainly very interested in every possible avenue of treatment. Here’s what you need to know about proton therapy and how proton therapy for brain cancer works.

What is Cancer Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy is a way of treating cancer with radiation. A proton is a charged particle which, at high energy, is capable of destroying cells, including cancer cells. Proton therapy delivers high-energy proton cells in a beam targeted directly at cancer cells. Proton therapy is painless and delivers this radiation through the skin. This is done by using a machine known as a synchrotron which agitates the protons to get them up to speed.

What is Different About Proton Therapy?

The great advantage of proton therapy is that it is highly targeted. Older forms of radiation treatment not only irradiate cancer cells, but also spread radiation throughout the surrounding tissues. Proton beam radiation stops right where the technician directs it to stop. This means, for example, that someone being treated with proton therapy for breast cancer will experience no radiation on the heart and 50% less radiation to the lungs then conventional radiation would typically expose them to. This decrease in radiation protects the rest of the body’s tissue and also decreases the possibility of side effects.

Proton Therapy for Brain Cancer

Because of the way the proton therapy can be so accurately directed, it is of special interest to those suffering from brain tumors. One of the problems with treating brain cancer is the delicacy of brain tissue. It can be difficult to effectively eradicate cancerous tissues without damaging any other tissue.

A study done in 1990 looked at 60 people treated with conventional radiation therapy between 1958 and 1987. Just under 40% of them had serious complications believed to be a result of their therapy, ranging from cognitive dysfunction to eyesight damage. Similar studies of those who have undergone proton therapy for brain cancer have found significantly less exposure to radiation and thus far fewer side effects.

Who Is a Candidate for This Brain Cancer Treatment?

Proton beam therapy is more appropriate for certain types of tumors and cancers. Proton therapy for brain cancer is particularly appropriate for treating pituitary adenoma, recurrent glioma, low-grade glioma, craniopharyngioma, and meningioma. Proton therapy is also a preferred method of treating children because of its ability to target tumors specifically. It is also being used in situations where surgery is unable to remove all of the cancerous tumor.

Are There Side Effects?

Unfortunately, there are side effects to every type of cancer treatment available. Thankfully, proton beam therapy offers some of the fewest side effects for brain cancer treatment of any treatment currently available. Although side effects can be similar to those experienced in any type of radiation therapy, proton beam therapy side effects are less severe and less frequent than those that result from the standard x-ray therapy. The most common side effects include skin irritation, hair loss, and tiredness.

Are There Any Cancers it Can’t Treat?

Proton beam therapy is not often recommended for tumors that have metastasized extensively or are not solid and well defined. This is because the highly targeted delivery method. As always, it is important to discuss any treatment with your doctor.

How Long Has Proton Therapy Been Used?

A physicist proposed the use of proton therapy as long ago as 1946. In 1950, the first research trials were conducted. Unfortunately, the imaging technology of that day was not good enough to allow proton therapy to be highly effective. It is today’s improved MRI, PET, and CT scanning technology that makes proton beam therapy effective. Proton therapy for brain cancer and other types of cancer has been increasingly common since 1990.

Proton therapy for brain cancer is now gaining traction is one of the most important ways of fighting back against this terrible disease. While research is still ongoing, more and more insurance companies and hospitals are turning to proton beam therapy as a superior method of treating many of our most difficult and intractable cancers. If you or someone you love has a brain tumor, ask whether proton therapy for brain cancer could be a good option.

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