Among advanced cancer treatment options, proton radiation therapy has a high success rate for several types of cancer. It uses a highly focused laser beam to destroy the tumor, without damaging surrounding tissues. This makes it suitable for treatment for breast cancer, prostate cancer and other tumors located near sensitive internal organs. There are few to no side effects, which also makes it suitable for the treatment of childhood cancers.
What is proton treatment?
Proton radiation therapy uses a highly focused laser beam to destroy tumors while leaving surrounding tissues undamaged. This is very different from traditional radiation therapy, which damages surrounding tissues, making recovery slow and painful. For example, the radiation received by gastrointestinal structures during proton cancer treatment is reduced by 59% when compared to conventional radiation treatment using X-rays.
In breast cancer treatment, the heart receives no radiation at all with proton therapy, and the lungs receive half the radiation they would in conventional radiation therapy. Among advanced cancer treatment options like chemotherapy, proton therapy for cancer is distinguished for having few to no side effects. This makes it suitable for the treatment of childhood cancer. The lack of side effects also means that the treatment is not painful and recovery is quicker.
How well does proton treatment work?
For the treatment of certain types of cancer, proton treatment has a high rate of success. For example, as a treatment for prostate cancer, it shows high rates of non- recurrence. Studies have found that five years after treatment, men with low- risk prostate cancer had a high non-recurrence rate of 99%. For intermediate-risk patients, the non-recurrence rate was 94%, and for high-risk patients, it was 74%.
The high success rates are one reason for the growth of proton therapy centers around the world. Millions of people have already undergone proton therapy and there is a growing demand for the treatment. At the start of 2015, about thirty new proton therapy centers were under construction around the world. These would have a total of eighty treatment rooms.
What to expect from proton treatment
The first step in determining whether proton treatment is suitable for a patient is a consultation with a doctor. It can be suitable for treating certain types of cancer, such as brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer. This is because these are located near sensitive organs which would be damaged by other kinds of advanced cancer treatment options like conventional radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Proton therapy is also suitable for the treatment of childhood cancers.
Treatment can last for six to eight weeks at a proton therapy center. Unlike other treatments, it is not debilitating and the patient can continue a regular lifestyle. Each treatment session lasts for 15 to 45 minutes, but most of this time is spent in preparing the patient for treatment. Actual exposure to radiation is only for about one or two minutes in each session.
Proton radiation therapy is a new treatment for certain types of cancers. Among advanced cancer treatment options, it is noted for having few to no side effects and a better and quicker recovery. It also has high success rates for certain types of cancers such as prostate cancer.