Cancer still stands as one of the boogeymen of the medical industry, and there is not yet a cure for cancer. However, modern medicine boasts new and more advanced ways to fight cancerous growths and malignant tumors, and traditional methods such as full-body radiation or chemotherapy may seem blunt compared to the innovation of proton cancer treatment. Proton beam radiation is a new form of cancer treatment therapy, and already, this innovative cancer treatment therapy is proving effective against many types of cancer found among American patients today. This non-invasive cancer treatment method is relatively scarce, as proton therapy for cancer is still new and still growing. But many doctors and patients alike find it favorable, and a cancer patient may consult a doctor about getting this form of cancer treatment therapy done if possible. What can be done with proton beam cancer treatment therapy today?
What Proton Beams Can Do
Older methods of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and full-body radiation have sometime been compared to carpet bombing, causing a lot of collateral damage while fighting cancer. Proton beam therapy, meanwhile, is literally a surgical strike, using much more precision with its radiation to greatly reduce harmful effects to non-cancer tissues. Proton beam therapy is made possible with a machine known as a synchrotron, and this device excites protons and issues them in a narrow but concentrated beam from a nozzle. This beam is capable of striking cancer cells and tumors and destroying them while causing very little damage to surrounding tissues, something that any patient would greatly appreciate. Today, this cancer treatment method is still rare since it is recent, but more and more clinics around the world are being built to offer proton radiation therapy like this.
Statistics show how effective and safe this method of cancer treatment can be. While not all forms of cancer can be treated this way, many can, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, among others. A woman who has proton beam therapy done for breast cancer may expect no radiation at all to strike their heart, and only 50% of the radiation to the lungs that would occur from full-body radiation. Meanwhile, many men have had proton beam therapy done on prostate cancer, and even high-risk cancer cases are often settled positively with this radiation method. Around 94% of men who had this done reported no sexual health problems at all after the radiation therapy. Meanwhile, around 99%, 94%, and 74% of men who had this treatment done for low, medium, and high risk prostate cancer (respectively) reported no signs of cancer recurrence after a five-year follow-up.
Getting This Therapy Done
If a patient is diagnose with a form of cancer that can be treated with proton beam therapy, they may ask their doctor for a referral to a clinic that can offer this form of cancer treatment therapy. If so, the patient may expect to have their cancer destroyed over the course of multiple sessions at a proton therapy clinic. At the start of each session, the patient will have their X-rays taken, and this will provide the doctors with a clear image of the tumor’s size, location, and shape. The proton beam must be aimed at the tumor itself, since it’s not a full-body method, and this information provides a target. At the start of each session, the tumor’s size and shape will be different.
Now, the patient will be escorted to a room where the synchrotron is, and they will either sit down or lay down, depending on the cancer’s location. In another room, the doctors will remotely control the synchrotron’s beam and use it to destroy cancer cells upon contact while causing no harm to surrounding tissues at all. The beam radiation session itself may last only two or three minutes or so, and the entire visit to the clinic may last 30-45 minutes or so. This will continue until the cancer cells are wiped out. Meanwhile, the patient may expect only mild side effects of proton beam radiation, such as redness of the skin, itchiness, dry skin, or blisters. Many patients may agree that these side effects are vastly preferable to those of older cancer treatment methods.