Proton Therapy For Cancer Explained
Proton Cancer Treatment
Traditional radiation therapy is delivered by photons, the same photons that are light. While radiation therapy delivers energy to kill cancer, it also affects healthy cells. Proton therapy is a type of radiation that stops at a very specific point in the targeted tissue; conventional radiation continues beyond the tumor. In breast cancer treatment, this means on average no radiation to the heart and on average 50% less radiation to the lung as compared with conventional radiation.
A proton radiation treatment session generally takes 15 to 45 minutes, however, the actual time spent delivering the protons to the tumor is generally only about a minute or two. Physicians have more control of the exact point at which the proton beam will deposit its energy. This means cancer receives more radiation, while sensitive area like salivary glands, eyes and spinal cord receive less radiation. Additionally, it keeps radiation from “spreading” and affecting other parts of the body long term. This lowers the risk of side effects like bone injury and permanent dryness of the mouth.
Due to proton therapy targeted approach, studies have found it to be amongst the successful treatment options for prostate cancer. Studies show that prostate cancer patients who received proton treatment have a significantly reduced risk of impotence, with 94% of men reporting that they remain sexually active after treatment. Researchers report that 99 percent, 94 percent and 74 percent of men treated with proton radiation therapy with low-, intermediate-, and high-risk prostate cancer, respectively, have no signs of cancer recurrence after five years of follow-up.
Proton Therapy For Head and Neck Cancer
Approximately 23,800 adults and 4,830 children are diagnosed with cancerous tumors of the brain and spinal cord each year, with brain tumors making up the majority of that number. Proton therapy for head and neck cancer can deliver effective doses of radiation, minimal side effects, and the risk of damage to non-cancerous tissue in the area is decreased. Proton therapy decreases the radiation dose to gastrointestinal structures by at least 59% compared to X-rays.
Many head and neck cancer patients can benefit from intensity modulated proton therapy, or IMPT. Proton therapy for head and neck cancer reduces side effects such as loss of taste, nausea, and endocrine disorders. Proton cancer treatment is one of the least invasive, and most promising methods in use today, especially for cancers of the head and neck.