What Are the Benefits of Proton Therapy?
For those of you that have never heard of proton therapy, it is a new and emerging form of radiation therapy. This highly effective type of medical treatment involves the use of extremely high-energy proton beams that are aimed at a variety of cancerous tumors in order to shrink them. While x-rays have been used in the same manner to shrink tumors for many decades, proton therapy is different in that it uses positively charged particles to achieve a similar or far greater result. Proton therapy is not only more effective than x-ray treatments, but it also has substantially less adverse side effects as well.
What is Proton Therapy?
The manner in which proton therapy works is it utilizes a highly advanced machine referred to as a cyclotron or synchrotron. This machine greatly speeds up protons in order to create an extremely high energy concentration. Once the protons are moving at optimally high rates of speed, the machine channels the proton energy and turns it into a medically usable beam. When aimed at the human body, the proton beam is able to travel to any desired depth within the tissues, allowing highly trained physicians to accurately aim the beam at specific pinpoint locations.
With proton energy aimed at human tissues, there is substantially less radiation emitted into the surrounding tissues. That is the main downside to more conventional x-ray treatments, is that x-rays cause radiation to invade the healthy tissues surrounding a tumor. For this reason, proton therapy has far fewer side effects than x-ray treatments.
Cancers Proton Therapy Can Help Treat
Proton therapy is typically used to treat cancers such as brain tumors, eye melanoma, head and neck cancers, lung cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, pituitary gland tumors, spinal tumors, and bone cancer. The larger and more isolated the cancerous tissues or malignant tumors are from healthy tissues, the more effective proton therapy treatments tend to be. The cancer also has to be clearly defined enough for the proton beam to be directed at it. With blood cancers being non-tumor or tissue-based, proton therapy is not able to work effectively on such dispersed types of cancer.
There is currently a list of cancers that proton therapy is still be tested on through clinical medical trials. These cancers include anal cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, lymphoma, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. Results of these clinical trials should be thoroughly known in the coming decade.
Benefits of Proton Therapy
- Proton Therapy is Safe For Everyone - Due to the fact that proton therapy has so few side effects, it is an ideal cancer therapy for children, seniors, adults, and anyone with a weakened or compromised immune system. Children can tolerate this treatment as there is little pain associated with administering the proton beams, nor is there any nausea, fatigue, dehydration, pain, dizziness, and a list of other common cancer treatment side effects.
- Pinpoint Precision - Proton therapy is considered to be one of the most pinpoint precise cancer treatments available. The highly concentrated proton beam is able to be manipulated and channeled like a small laser. This gives physicians and oncologists the ability to zap tumors and cancerous tissues exactly as the treatment requires. With such precision available to surgeons using the therapy, there is also very little chance of medical errors occurring.
- Fewer Side Effects - Due to the fact that proton energy is much more concentrated than x-rays, it does not invade healthy tissues while administering it to a tumor or cancerous tissues. It typically only affects the cancer alone, causing no pain during the treatment and leaving healthy tissues as they are. Due to the fact that it does not harm healthy tissues, it is a preferred long term treatment option for cancers that are difficult to address.
- It Can Be Combined With Other Treatments - With so few adverse side effects known to occur with proton therapy treatment, is it an ideal therapy to use in combination with other simultaneously administered treatments. Types of cancer treatments commonly paired with proton therapy include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and other forms of precision medicine treatments.