Proton Therapy for Cancer Patients

Cancer still stands as one of the most dangerous and dreaded ailments in the developed world, and it can appear in a number of parts of the body, from the lungs to the stomach to bone, and even the reproductive organs such as testicular or ovarian cancer. Advanced cancer treatment options for this affliction already exist, such as X-rays and chemotherapy, but a new, emerging method of treatment is proton therapy for prostate cancer, intestinal cancer, skin cancer, and more. Among men, the prostate is vulnerable to developing cancerous growths, so to treat it, proton therapy for prostate cancer is a newer, safer option that men today can try, and many other parts of the body can be treated with it too, such as proton therapy for breast cancer. Interested patients can look into this therapy method and how it works, such as proton therapy for prostate cancer, and find out the costs and what local medical facilities may offer it, as well as potential side effects.

How Proton Therapy Centers Work

Proton therapy for prostate cancer, lung cancer, and more is possible by means of a machine called a synchrotron. This device excites protons and charges them with energy, then issues them through a nozzle in a concentrated, narrow beam that is maintained with magnets. This beam is applied directly to the cancerous growth and destroys the cells, but since the beam is narrow and its energy is focused, there is very little damage to other tissues during the process, which contrasts proton therapy for prostate cancer (and other body parts) from older methods of cancer treatment. Conventional radiation therapy will extend beyond the targeted tumor, and as an example, proton therapy for breast cancer will not involve any radiation energy going into the heart, and 50% less goes to the lungs, making the process safer for the patient. Men who undergo proton therapy for prostate cancer have reported much better health afterwards; as reported by researchers, 99%, 94%, and 74% of men who received proton therapy for low, medium, and high risk prostate cancer, respectively, had no signs of recurring cancer during a follow-up five years later. 94% of men who undergo proton therapy for prostate cancer report no ill effects of their sexual health, meaning that treating prostate cancer with proton therapy does not usually mean sacrificing reproductive health in exchange for removing cancerous growths.

During proton therapy sessions, the patient will have his or her X-rays taken first to identify the location, size, and shape of the cancerous growth, so that doctors can see exactly what they are working with and know how to aim the proton therapy beam. The patient is then taken to a certain room in a proton therapy center and allowed to either sit or lie on a table, depending on the cancer’s location, and not move during the operation. The synchrotron is then controlled remotely by the doctors who sit in a nearby room, and they can correct the beam’s aim during therapy to keep it on target as the cancerous growth is destroyed, or if the patient moves. Intercoms allow the doctors to speak to the patient to reassure him or her if need be, and the the treatment may be spread over a few sessions until the cancer is completely gone. Sessions may last 30-45 minutes, from X-rays to finishing the proton beam process, although the process of using the beam is very short, lasting only a minute or two. Possible side effects of this treatment may include rashes, mild blistering, redness, or dryness of the skin where the proton beam was used, but it can be argued that these are much preferable to the side effects one may experience from chemotherapy or other radiation methods.

Proton therapy for prostate cancer and other cancerous growths is relatively rare, since the technology is new, and accordingly, getting the treatment can be expensive, although this may change in the future. As of early 2015, around 30 medical centers for proton therapy were being built, with a total of 80 rooms among them.

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