Now in the 21st century, cancer still stands as one of the biggest medical challenge of all, but fortunately, a new method of radiation treatment for cancer has emerged. While there is no true “cure” for cancer, prostate cancer options, breast cancer treatment options, and more now include proton radiation therapy. This new form of radiation treatment for cancer has proven popular, and while it’s a recent technology that’s relatively rare, many cancer patients may take an interest in it. Proton therapy centers are being built around the world, and right now they’re found in modest numbers, but that may change in the coming years. A cancer treatment center may have a machine known as a synchrotron, which is what makes radiation treatment for cancer possible. So, when a patient has been diagnosed with cancer, they may ask their doctor if proton beam therapy is an option. Not all forms of cancer can be treated like this, but many can. How might this work?
On Proton Beam Therapy
This form of radiation treatment for cancer has one particular distinction from other forms of cancer treatment: minimal collateral damage. Older forms of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or full-body radiation cause a lot of damage to other tissues in the body, and analogies to carpet bombing are often made. By contrast, a synchrotron issues only a narrow beam of excited protons to destroy cancer cells, and this focused beam does no damage to surrounding tissues during a procedure. This precise method ensures that healthy tissues experience little to no radiation at all, something that patients and doctors together may find very attractive. A synchrotron’s nozzle releases these narrow beams during a procedure, targeting only the affected area.
This new form of radiation treatment for cancer is young, but it has already had time to prove itself. It can be used for breast cancer, for example, and the patient may experience no radiation at all to her heart during a beam therapy session. Her lungs may experience only about half of the radiation that they would if conventional radiation therapy was being performed. Meanwhile, prostate cancer can also be treated with proton beams, and many men report positive results. Over 94% of patients report no ill effects to their sexual health after proton beam therapy on prostate cancer, and the cancer is often destroyed for good this way. Around 99%, 94%, and 74% of men with low, moderate, and high risk prostate cancer, respectively, report no recurrence of cancer after a five-year follow-up. Some forms of cancer such as spinal cancer cannot be treated like this, but others can, and a patient may be offered the option of beam therapy.
Getting Beam Therapy Done
When a patient signs u for proton beam therapy, they will visit the clinic for several sessions to get this therapy done. At the start of each session, the doctors will take X-rays of the patient’s affected area so that the exact location, size, and shape of the tumor or other cancerous growth will be noted. With this information in hand, the doctors will escort the patient to a room that contains the synchrotron itself, and the patient will either lay down or sit down, depending on the cancer’s location in the body. The doctors, meanwhile, will adjourn to another room, where they can remotely operate the synchrotron. They may also use an intercom to speak with the patient if need be.
Once the synchrotron issues a proton beam, the patient will be advised to stay still during this operation, and the focused beam will strike cancer cells and destroy them (and only them) on contact. This procedure may continue for about two to three minutes. The patient may visit again for a few more sessions until the cancerous growth is completely wiped out, as the X-rays will show. As for side effects, many patients might agree that they are mild compared to what chemotherapy might do. Patients may expect skin redness or dryness, blisters, or itchiness on the affected area after proton beam therapy has been done.