Radiation treatment for cancer has often involved full body X-rays before, as an alternative to chemotherapy, but both of those methods have a number of proven side effects that no patient looks forward to, but a new form of radiation treatment for cancer is finding a present in the medical industry, and that is proton radiation therapy. This new radiation treatment for cancer promises to minimize the downsides of traditional methods of cancer treatment and focus its energy only on the cancerous growth or tumor, and although representing only a small portion of the medical industry so far, this new form of radiation treatment for cancer is growing, and many patients have reported a positive experience with it. Just how does it work, and what can a patient expect during the procedure?
Radiation With Protons
Proton therapy centers make use of radiation like other cancer treatment methods, but there are some key differences that doctors and patients will find appealing. This method does not douse the patient’s entire body in radiation; instead, a device called a synchrotron will electrically excite protons inside it, and these charged protons are issued from a narrow nozzle and form a beam that strikes only a very limited area on the patient’s body; in this case, a tumor or other cancerous growth. This means that side effects are very limited, and the proton beam will destroy cancer cells on contact while causing little to no collateral damage all the while. Over the course of a few sessions, proton therapy for cancer will destroy a tumor and have no effect on regular tissues.
Just how effective is this? Statistics have already been gathered to show that cancer proton therapy gets good results. Women who use this method for breast cancer can expect a safe procedure; with the proton beam focusing on the cancerous growth itself, only half (at most) of the radiation that would normally strike the heart will reach that organ, and this reduces the risks associated with cancer treatment. Men who are treating prostate cancer with proton beams have also reported great results. In particular, researched found that 99%, 94%, and 74% of patients who experienced proton therapy for low, moderate, and high risk prostate cancer reported no recurrence of this cancer after five years, and very few men who get proton therapy for prostate cancer reported any harm to their reproductive health afterwards.
Any cancer patient who wants to get this method cancer treatment can visit a proton treatment facility and undergo several sessions for eliminating their cancer. In any given session, the first step is for the doctors to take the patient’s X-rays to determine the location, size, and shape of the tumor or cancerous growth to be destroyed, so they know what to target. Now, the patient will be escorted into a treatment room, which includes the synchrotron, and the patient will either sit or lay down, based on where the cancerous growth is in their body, and the doctors will adjourn to a nearby room where they control the synchrotron and can speak with the patient through intercoms to soothe the patient’s nerves if need be.
The synchrotron will activate, and it will issue a beam of charged protons that destroy cancer cells on contact, and the doctors will carefully control the beam to keep it on target. Over the course of several sessions, the tumor will be destroyed, and the patient may return for follow-ups later on. Side effects will be minimal. Usually, a patient may expect any combination of skin redness, rashes, blistering, or minor peeling, but it is likely that a patient would prefer these side effects to those of any other radiation treatment for cancer.
The technology for proton radiation therapy is currently limited to a few facilities, but more are being constructed, and they will have many treatment rooms between them all, and cancer patients in the near future may find more opportunities to make use of this safer and more precise method of cancer treatment. It should be also noted that currently, not all types of cancers can be treated with proton therapy, but many can, and a cancer patient may ask his or her doctor if proton therapy is an option for them.