Understanding Proton Therapy

Understanding proton therapy

The benefit of proton therapy is that high doses of radiation can be given while avoiding damage surrounding healthy treatment. It has fewer side effects than traditional radiation. This means that surrounding organ and tissue do not suffer damage from the treatment. It is one of the many types of treatments or a cancer cure.

How It Works

It is a superior form of radiation treatment. All body tissue is made up of molecules with atoms with a nucleus.  Orbiting the nucleus are electrons.  Proton therapy changes the characteristic of the atom and this is what causes changes in the cancer.  The ionization process destroys DNA material in the cells. It keeps them from dividing and forming new one.

Normal and cancerous cells attempt to repair the damage. Often the cancerous cells do not have the ability to successfully repair themselves. Therefore cancer cells retain more damage as a result die and do not keep growing. The therapy destroys cancer cells growing among the normal cells.  Proton therapy works on the principal of selective cell destruction.

This therapy can be distributed by the doctor in a 3 dimensional pattern with each beam used. It is easier to direct at the area being treated. As they move through the body they slow down interacting with electrons in the atoms.  As they reach the targeted point the most interaction occurs. The cancerous cells receive more damage than the healthy cells surrounding it.

The doctor has the ability to increase the dose to the tumor and not to the surrounding cells. This means more ability to shrink the tumor and less damage to surrounding tissue.  The patient experiences fewer side effects after the treatment.  The treatment is controlled by network of computers and safety systems to protect the patient.

Pencil beam technology means the proton beam is just millimeters wide. This gives the doctor and staff more control on treating the cancer patient. It is very effective in treating tumors that are complex located in the prostrate, eyes, brain, and in young children. The benefit is that an effective dosage of radiation can be delivered to even odd shaped tumors.

Tumors may be near the throat, nose, skull, tongue or tonsil. This gives them the ability to treat tumors without damaging surrounding areas.  The benefits are it targets the exact shape of the tumor with great accuracy.  It spares healthy tissue and surrounding organ damage from the radiation. It is effective in treating all stages of cancer.

Proton Therapy Requires Planning

This form of treatment does require planning. Before treatment patients will go through computerized tomography or MRI. They are put in exact position that they will be during treatment.  Their movements must be limited during the scan. They may have to wear a custom made mask for the face or piece that fits on the upper or lower body.

The piece is designed to fit snugly so there is no movement during treatment. Sometimes medication is prescribed to help patients deal with anxiety.  They draw tumor treatment areas before proceeding. The patient will be place on a table or in a chair by staff members.  Usually X-rays or CAT scans are taken before every treatment.

Some doctors’ offices have a gantry that rotates around the patient. It ensures proton waves are delivered to the tumor from best angles. Treatments last about 15 to 3 minutes long.  Some cancer patients experience fatigue and skin problems like redness, swelling and blistering.

Proton therapy is used to treat central nervous system cancer, eye cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, spinal, pelvic and brain tumors. Because it requires expensive medical equipment it is only available in a few places in the United States.  It is another cancer treatment option that patients have.