Fighting Cancer With Proton Beams

Fighting Cancer With Proton Beams

Health and Fitness March 19, 2019

Cancer still looms as one of the major medical threats around the world today, and cancerous growths have been known to appear on many different body parts ranging from bones and the brain to the lungs or reproductive organs. There is not yet a total preventative measure against cancer, but a new method of cancer treatment has emerged: proton beam radiation. At a cancer treatment center, a person may be subjected to intense but narrow rays of proton radiation, and this form of cancer treatment may prove not only safe but effective. Older methods of breast cancer treatment (as one example) involve radiation or chemotherapy that threatens the entire body. A lot of collateral damage, to put it in other terms. At a modern cancer treatment center, however, breast cancer and prostate cancer cure options include proton radiation therapy, and the side effects are often minimal. What is there to know about proton therapy centers and this method of cancer treatment?

How Proton Therapy Works

At modern cancer treatment centers, a cancer patient may choose to have proton beam radiation done. What does this entail? A machine known as a synchrotron will electrically excite a number of protons, then issue them through a nozzle in a tightly controlled, narrow beam that is aimed right at the cancerous growth or tumor in the patient’s body. This narrow beams can easily destroy cancer cells that it touches, but this focused beam, like a laser, has practically no effect on anything outside of its narrow target area. Much like how a laser cutting beam doesn’t heat up metal outside its targeted area, a proton beam has no effect on the tissues surrounding the cancer cells. In fact, even the tissues and organs behind the affected area suffer minimal side effects. A woman having proton beam therapy done on breast cancer may expect practically no radiation to strike her heart, and only 50% of the radiation to her lungs that she would expect from full-body radiation.

Men can have proton therapy done on prostate cancer, and statistics show that this cancer treatment center is highly effective for that purpose. Very few men who have proton therapy done on their prostate glands report any sexual issues afterwards, but the cancer is likely to be destroyed for good. Researchers found that 97%, 94%, and 74% of men with low, moderate, and high risk prostate cancer, respectively, reported having no signs of recurring cancer within five years after the radiation work. And while proton therapy at a cancer treatment center can’t yet be used on all types of cancer, many cancer types can indeed be fought with this radiation. A cancer patient may consult his or her doctor and find out if a nearby cancer treatment center may be available to offer proton beam therapy. If the patient is accepted, what might they expect during this procedure?

Getting Proton Therapy

The first step in a visit to a cancer treatment center is to have the patient’s X-rays taken during each session (there will be several sessions on different days). This X-ray imaging allows the doctors to determine the shape, size, and location of the tumor(s), which is important information for aiming the proton beam and avoiding damaging healthy tissues. Now, the patient will be taken to a room where the synchrotron is, and the patient will either be seated or lay down, based on where in their body the cancerous growth is. The doctors will adjourn to a nearby room where they can control the synchrotron, and they can use an intercom to talk with the patient if they need to.

At this point, the doctors can remotely control the synchrotron and aim its beam to strike only the tumors or other cancerous growths in the patient’s body. This beam will destroy cancerous cells on contact, and many cells may be destroyed during a single session. It should be noted that the synchrotron itself will only be used for a minute or two, and over the course of several sessions, the doctors will be able to destroy all of the cancerous cells. Patients must hold still, and typically, they will experience only limited side effects such as reddening on the skin, blisters, or dryness on the affected skin.