New proton therapy clinics are being built around the world and especially in the U.S. That?s because the new treatment for cancer has been effective in treating certain types of cancer. One of the things that differentiates proton therapy for head and neck cancer and other sensitive areas is that it has few to no side effects, unlike traditional radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This also makes it suitable for the treatment of childhood cancer.
What is proton therapy?
Proton therapy uses a highly focused proton beam to target the affected tissues. Because the beam is highly focused, it does not damage the surrounding tissues, unlike older radiation therapy methods. Also unlike radiation therapy, the beam stops at the affected area and does not continue on through the body. This means that surrounding tissues and organs are not harmed during treatment.
For example, in breast cancer treatment using proton therapy, the heart receives no radiation at all and the lungs receive 50% less radiation than in conventional radiation therapy. The focused nature of proton therapy also means that it does not have painful side effects, unlike chemotherapy. Recovery is faster and easier. All of these factors make proton therapy suitable for the treatment of sensitive areas, and for the treatment of childhood cancer.
What types of cancers does it treat?
Proton treatment for cancer is a non-invasive cancer treatment that is suitable for sensitive areas like the head and neck, and for the chest and stomach areas. This is where highly sensitive and vital organs are located. Unlike conventional radiation therapy, proton therapy for head and neck cancers, breast cancer and prostate cancer does not harm surrounding tissues and organs.
In the treatment of prostate cancer, the exposure of gastrointestinal structures to radiation damage is reduced by at least 59%, as compared to traditional radiation therapy using X-rays. Proton therapy for cancer is also suitable for the treatment of childhood cancers, because there are few to no side effects, and recovery is quicker and better.
Treatment and recovery
Because it has been effective in the treatment of certain types of cancer, the number of treatment centers around the world has been increasing. Over 30 particle therapy centers were being built around the world, as of 2015. Between them, they have a total of 80 treatment rooms. Treatment can take two to four weeks, but is not as weakening or debilitating as radiation therapy.
That?s because in each therapy session, the proton beam radiation is used only for a minute or two to target the affected tissues. Each session can last from 15 to 45 minutes, but most of the time is spent on preparation. There are few to no painful side effects and the patient can continue a normal life during treatment.
Advanced cancer treatment options like proton therapy for head and neck cancer and for childhood cancer are making headway against the disease. Proton radiation therapy has few to no side effects and recovery is quicker, with better outcomes.