Understanding Proton Therapy: Consider It

The treatment for various types of cancer can sometimes be as hazardous as the disease itself: traditional radiation therapy adversely affects an entire area of tissue, including nearby structures and organs. In addition to the tumor area, traditional therapy also affects adjacent tissues and both deeper and more shallow tissues in order to ensure that as many cancer cells as possible are eliminated. Because of the “generalized” destruction caused by traditional radiation, the treatment can cause a host of side effects. Depending on the area targeted, these side effects can include nausea, vomiting, anorexia, weakness, dermal burns and even tissue erosion.

Proton Therapy Background

Proton therapy is an improved generation of radiation therapy. Proton and traditional radiation therapy both kill cancerous cells in the same manner: they disrupt the electron rotation within the atoms that make up the cells. This disruption prevents cells from replicating themselves or repairing the radiation damage. Proton therapy, however, is a type of focused radiation. The oncology radiologist can establish the velocity at which the protons enter the body. The velocity of the beam determines how deeply the radiation enters the body and lessens the effect of radiation on deeper or shallower tissues, below or above the tumor area. Not only is proton therapy able to control the relative depth of the treatment, but the affected area is limited to the size of the tumor plus any margin the radiologist chooses to use. You can also learn about “where can fillers be used on face“, click here

Medical Advantages to Proton Therapy

The technology of proton therapy lends it tremendous advantages in the treatment of many cancer patients. Systemic side effects from the treatment are avoided for the most part. More importantly, areas that were once off limits can now be considered for radiation treatment. The radiation area of proton therapy is more controlled, so effects on adjacent structures such as nerves, the spinal cord or organs is significantly minimized. The Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center and the center’s related radiation oncologists identify six general examples of uses for proton therapy that could not be treated with traditional radiation methods. These include brain tumors; tumors in infants and children; tumors close to the optic nerves; tumors adjacent to the spinal cord; prostate cancer and retreatment after local failure.

Personal Advantages to Proton Therapy

The National Association for Proton Therapy lists personal advantages to proton therapy that are applicable to many patients. In addition to being the most precise form of radiation therapy available, the lack of secondary tissue damage allows patients to avoid suffering all or most of the side effects generally associated with traditional radiation therapy. In most cases, patients can continue with their normal activities of daily living including recreation and exercise. Finally, proton therapy is covered by Medicare and most major health insurance policies.

Becoming a Proton Therapy Patient

There are relatively few proton therapy centers across the country, but talk to your doctor and do an online search to find a facility near you. Once you’ve contacted a center, make an appointment with one of the medical staff to learn more about treatment. If a positive response to proton therapy is anticipated, insurance approval and scheduling of treatments will commence.