There may come a time when you need to look into advanced cancer treatment options. For men, there is the added concern of protecting their reproductive system so that he can still perform sexually. A trip to a prostate cancer specialist can be nerve-racking. However, an appointment with a prostate cancer specialist will reveal the cancer treatment options he has, the most promising of which might be proton treatment.
Why Are Prostate Cancer Specialists Recommending Proton Radiation Therapy?
Cancer treatment is necessary for rapid-growing forms of cancer. But it is also true that the treatment options for cancer can make some patients frustrated by the aggressive therapy. Finding the option that is least painful, time consuming, and requires the least amount of recovery time can seem impossible. Thankfully, there is one option out there for prostate cancer that may interest some men.
Why Are Doctors Excited About Proton Therapy?
Prostate cancer specialists are excited about proton therapy because it allows them to direct treatment to the specific location of the cancer. So that means less radiation going to the patient’s reproductive system. Normal treatment blasts the local area with radiation, which can cause some damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.
Wait, Can Radiation Harm Healthy Tissues?
Radiation therapy is strong enough to kill off cancer cells. It can also cause some damage to the surrounding tissues. The goal is to target solely the cancer cells of course, however there is always the chance that some radiation will hit the healthy cells surrounding the cancerous cells. There are three types of radiation therapy: external, internal, and systemic. An oncologist will recommend which is best for the patient.
How Does Proton Therapy Work Differently Than the Other Options Out There?
Proton therapy’s success comes down to the design of the proton accelerator and the beam delivery system. This allows the technician to target the specific area where the cancer is located in the body. Perhaps what is most exciting is that the treatment does not extend past the tumor, as in the radiation does not continue through the cancerous cells out to the other side to reach the healthy cells. This lowers the chances of tissue damage.
When proton therapy was tested on breast cancer, studies showed that the radiation to the heart was reduced almost completely, and lung radiation was reduced by 50% as compared to traditional radiation treatment. In men with prostate cancer, this means less radiation to the delicate tissues of their reproductive system such as the penis, urethra, testes, scrotum, and seminal vesicles.
What Other Benefits Does Proton Therapy Offer Patients?
Treating prostate cancer with proton therapy does have other benefits, one of which is time. Proton therapy averages about 15 to 45 minutes, but they say that most of that time is the proton accelerator warming up. The actual time directing a beam to the cancer cells is a couple of minutes in most cases. Also, and maybe this is the most promising part to male patients, is that all of these features combined mean that patients generally do not exhibit side effects in their sex organs. About 94% of men reportedly were still usually able to have intercourse during their treatment timeline of the cancer.
Are There Side Effects of Using Proton Therapy?
The downside to proton therapy is that it is not available in all cancer treatment wards. The reason for this is that it is expensive to build the proton accelerator. One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, exploring the controversies and facts surrounding proton therapy found that proton therapy showed promising results in treating prostate cancer and reducing negative side effects. However, the study did note that the significant cost prevented the therapy from being in widespread usage.
Could proton therapy work for you or someone you know? As prostate cancer specialists will tell you, the treatment is still fairly new. It doesn’t have the long-term studies on its effectiveness and usage that traditional therapies do. However, it is worth noting that the results so far have been very promising.