Proton Therapy

For certain types of cancer, standard X-ray radiation therapy may work well; but proton therapy may do the job better, more efficiently and with less potential for collateral damage to surrounding tissue and vital organs.

Also known as particle therapy, proton therapy works to kill certain types of cancerous tissue, especially in places in the body where the growth is isolated. Developed from the workings of scientist Robert R. Wilson, a noted physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, proton therapy was in its mere infancy in the mid-1940s. Since that time, this cutting edge therapy has come to light as an effective way to isolate an abnormal growth, which is ideal for the treatment of many types of cancers that lie adjacent to vital organs, as well as in treating childhood cancers where it is protecting a child’s growing organs is critical.

Though X-ray therapy for cancer patients can be effective in expelling certain cancers, it can also create negative effects that leave the patient with other problems and side effects with which they must contend. Since X-ray radiation therapy affects a wider overall portion area of the body beyond the cancerous growth, this type of therapy is prone to spreading its radiation over a wider scope of a patient’s body during treatment, potentially damaging nearby, healthy tissue. Those administering X-ray radiation therapy are often left with the conflicting choice of whether to use an intense dosage of radiation to eradicate the body of the malignant growth, or to withhold the dosage to try to preserve the body’s healthy tissue.

No such conflict exists in proton therapy, which has a proven track record of effectively killing cancerous tissue. Patients suffering from brain cancers like meningioma, eye cancers like retinoblastoma and ocular melanoma, and spine tumors like chondrosarcoma, and prostate cancer have benefited from proton therapy. All of these cancers are in critical locations with delicate tissue surrounding the cancerous growth or vital organs lie nearby.

With over 200,000 men in the United States diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, the development and growing availability of proton therapy has made great strides to allay the anxiety that comes with such a diagnosis for men.

Though this type of cancer treatment can be costly – it’s expensive to build the necessary particle accelerator to speed up the protons – and there is a limited number facilities that provide such cancer eradicating therapy, the value of peace of mind for those who suffer from prostate cancer, as well as other cancers, it is well worth the effort, and is covered by insurance carriers. One facility that provides such treatment is IU Health Proton Therapy, a center in the Midwest.

The treatment sessions are relatively easy for the patient and cause few to no lingering side effects since proton therapy does not damage healthy tissue. This outpatient treatment takes place for a few minutes each day of treatment and goes on for approximately six to seven weeks. I may seem odd that a cancer treatment could be that quick, but it also gives hope to those looking for alternative cancer treatments.

Matt Herndon writes for Dose of My Own, a blog that discusses what’s happening in the medical field.

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