What Is Proton Beam Therapy?

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be one of the hardest times in a person’s life, and patients should be well informed of all their treatment options when going forward with their fight with cancer. While the doctor and oncology specialist will always be able to advise the best treatment type or combination treatment plan for the unique patient’s circumstances, knowing what the treatment options are and include can reduce the amount of anxiety a patient feels about their upcoming cancer procedure.

Which Cancer Treatments Are Available?

Cancer treatments have rapidly progressed in recent decades and the most common ones available today across the world include; radiotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy, proton beam therapy and immunology.

Radiotherapy – Using a beam of x-ray photons, the patient receives radiotherapy treatment in order to disrupt the inner workings of a cancer cell, this prevents the cell from being able to grow and reproduce and leads to the tumor cells dying. Radiotherapy is normally delivered in short individual sessions over the course of weeks or months.

Surgery – Where tumors are growing in an area that isn’t affecting vital organs or body systems, surgery is considered the best method for removing cancerous tumors, and while patients may need to undergo a few sessions of radiotherapy or proton beam therapy to ensure no remaining cancer cells, it is a relatively straightforward procedure.

Chemotherapy – It is the delivery of cancer treatment via the blood, and the patient will need to undergo several sessions over a period of weeks or months. Chemotherapy is considered one of the most invasive treatments against this illness and can have the most intense side effects.

Proton Beam Therapy – Although it has been used in the treatment of cancer since the early 1970s, it is still considered one of the youngest methods and is not as freely available as other cancer treatment types. It is delivered in a similar way to radiotherapy and involves patients receiving several short sessions over a set number of weeks or months.

Immunology – Another ‘young’ method of cancer treatment, immunology is using the body’s own immune system and involves helping the immune system identify and target cancerous cells in the body, fighting off this illness naturally with the minimally invasive treatment required.

What Is Proton Beam Therapy?

The cancer treatment we are going to focus on for this article is proton beam therapy. It is steadily becoming more available and is considered more suitable for certain cancers types and locations. Proton beam therapy is becoming more popular due to its ability to offer reduced short and long-term side effects, particularly in the treatment of young children who are still very early in their growth and development.

In the UK, it is gradually becoming more available, with the first center for proton beam therapy in Newport (visit here for more information) opening for private healthcare patients, closely followed by a further three centers in the network across England.

This therapy uses super-charged protons that are fired directly into the tumor site and in combination with pencil beam scanning methods can ‘paint’ every part of the tumor with pinpoint accuracy. These super-charged protons have their energy levels set to a precisely determined depth to ensure that the beam does not pass through the cancerous cells and potentially irradiate surrounding healthy tissue. Not only does this reduce the potential side-effects felt by the patient, but this method of delivering proton beams can reduce the potential for secondary malignancies in the future.

This is largely what determines whether proton beam therapy would provide better treatment and after-treatment experience when compared to other cancer methods that are lower in cost. This has seen proton beam therapy used as a preferential type of treatment for cancers that;

– Affect vital organs

– Interfere with vital body systems

– Occur in sensitive locations

– Are present in young children

While it isn’t available as commonly as other cancer treatment types, with some countries only offering proton therapy through private hospitals, you can find out more about it and if it would be suitable for you by getting in contact with your nearest cancer treatment center or reaching out to your oncologist.