Proton Beam Therapy

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What is Proton Beam Therapy?

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons to treat tumors. Proton beam therapy is used for cancer tumors as well as noncancerous tumors. Proton beam therapy is usually painless. 

Proton therapy is an advanced radiation treatment for tumors. Proton beam therapy penetrates energy on the tumor but spares the surrounding healthy tissue. The Proton beam only treats you for a few minutes, but preparation and positioning takes longer. Although Proton beam therapy is safe and effective treatment for various types of cancer, it is expensive.  

What Types of Cancer can be treated by Proton Beam Therapy?

Proton therapy is useful for treating childhood cancers. Studies have shown proton beam therapy to be effective in treating many types of tumors, central nervous system and gastrointestinal system as well as cancers that cannot be removed completely by surgery. Proton beam therapy is sometimes used to treat:

  • Brain tumors
  • Breast cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, melanoma and other cancers around the eye.
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Pituitary gland tumors
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Benign

How to prepare for Proton Beam Therapy?

Proton therapy involves careful planning; you might undergo imaging tests such as computed tomography or MRI to provide pictures of the tumor and the surrounding area before each session. The therapy team usually marks the area for treatment on the body to highlight the exact spot of the tumor. This helps the radiation therapists treat the tumor from several angles.

How Proton Beam Therapy Works?

The actual proton beam therapy treatment may take only a minute or so, but positioning your body may take longer. Positioning the body is very important. The team will adjust you and the instruments to make sure the proton beam will reach the exact spot of the tumor. While the treatment is happening, you must be very still on the table. The team will work with you to help keep you in place.

Step 1 – A machine called a synchrotron or cyclotron speeds up protons. The protons create high energy which makes it able to travel to the desired depth in the body.

Step 2 – The protons then give the targeted radiation dose in the tumor. They release more of their energy within the tumor itself. 

Step 3 – This burst of energy can appear on a graph as what is called the Bragg peak. After delivering the energy to the tumor, the protons stop and it does not damage the healthy tissue.

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What are the Benefits of Proton Beam Therapy?

Proton radiotherapy damages the DNA of cancer cells because more energy is focused on the tumor, and less radiation affects the healthy tissue nearby. Therefore, side effects can be milder and damage to delicate organs such as the brain, heart, oral cavity, esophagus and spinal cord might be reduced.

What are the Complications of Proton Therapy?

You may experience tiredness which can make you feel that you have little energy for everyday tasks. You may also notice sunburn-like skin redness in the area where the proton beams are directed. There will also be hair loss in the treatment area. The Side effects may also depend on what part of your body is being treated and the dose of proton therapy you receive.

The Outcome of Proton Beam Therapy:

After being treated with the proton therapy, most people can return to their normal activities. Your doctor might ask you to take tests, so that he can monitor how the treatment is affecting the tumor and adjust your treatment if necessary.

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