Cancer still looms as one of the great medical challenges of 21st century medicine, and while a number of cancer treatments exist and are used today, from chemotherapy to surgery to remove tumors and other cancerous growths, a new, non-invasive cancer treatment method has emerged and is rapidly gaining popularity: proton beam radiation. What exactly is this sort of non-invasive cancer treatment, and why is it so desirable? Proton therapy centers are few in number but are being built all the time, and at these centers, proton cancer treatment can be had, with maximum results and minimal side effects. Not all forms of cancer may be treated with proton radiation therapy, but many can, and a cancer patient today is encouraged to ask his or her doctor if their form of cancer can be treated with proton cancer treatment, with breast cancer and prostate cancer standing as two types of cancer that this non-invasive cancer treatment can handle. What can a patient expect from this?
Proton Therapy Basics
This form of non-invasive cancer treatment is made possible in a special machine known as as synchrotron. This device will electrically excite proton inside, and once the protons reach the proper level of energy, they are issued through a thin nozzle and will strike the patient’s body, destroying cancerous growths and tumors on contact, while not affecting any bodily tissue surrounding or behind the affected area. In fact, women who receive proton therapy for breast cancer may expect only half the radiation to strike their lungs or heart with this method as they could expect from traditional radiation therapy methods, drastically reducing the health risks when using proton therapy for cancer.
Similarly, men who get proton therapy done for prostate cancer have reported good results. In particular, researchers have found that 99%, 94%, and 74% of men who were treated for low, moderate, and high risk prostate cancer, respectively, reported no recurrence of this cancer after use of proton beam therapy during their follow up. Only a very slim minority of men who received this therapy reported any damage to their reproductive health afterwards, with the vast majority reporting no problems at all. What can a patient expect when they go in for proton cancer therapy?
Getting the Therapy
A cancer patient going in for proton beam therapy may expect to go through several sessions until their cancerous growth or tumor has been eliminated by this treatment method. First, at the start of every session, the patient will have his or her X-rays taken so that the doctors can identify the location, shape, and size of the cancerous growth. With this information available, the doctors will now escort the patient to a specialized room that has the synchrotron inside, and the patient will be directed to either sit down or lay down, based on the tumor’s location, and the doctors will relocate to a nearby room where they may remotely operate the synchrotron. They may also use intercoms to speak back and forth with the patient to give them directions or simply calm their nerves.
The synchrotron will activate, and the doctors will remotely control the beam so that it will strike only the cancerous growth, and never the surrounding, healthy tissue. The patient must also hold still so that the procedure can be accurate, and they may be directed to stop moving if there is a problem. The beam will destroy cancer cells on contact in each session, and the patient will undergo multiple sessions until the cancer is eradicated from their body.
Compared to other, more invasive methods of cancer treatment, this form of non-invasive cancer treatment has very few side effects. A patient may expect only a few minor symptoms on the skin above the targeted area, such as blistering, redness, rashes, itchiness, or other minor irritation. Today, only a few such cancer treatment centers exist worldwide, but more are being built, and this form of cancer treatment may become more common in the coming years. For patients with a cancer type that proton therapy can address, it may be a good idea to speak with a doctor and explore the possibility of receiving proton therapy in the near future.