Cancer remains a significant health concern worldwide, affecting millions of lives every year. Thankfully, medical advancements have led to the development of various options, including proton therapy. Proton cancer treatment is a form of radiation therapy that utilizes protons instead of traditional X-rays to treat cancer. Here are the top things to know about it.
How does it work?
It works by using a beam of protons to target and destroy cancer cells. They are charged particles that can be precisely controlled to release their energy at specific depths within the body. Unlike X-rays, which pass through the body, they have a unique property called the Bragg peak. It means they deposit most of their energy at the end of their path, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
Precision and reduced side effects
One of the significant advantages is its precision in targeting tumours while minimizing damage to healthy tissues and organs. The ability to control the protons’ energy release depth makes it ideal for treating tumours located near critical structures like the spinal cord, brain, or eyes. By sparing healthy tissues, it reduces the risk of long-term side effects and improves the overall quality of life for cancer survivors.
Suitable for paediatric and adult patients
This therapy is especially beneficial for paediatric patients and adults with specific types of cancer. Children’s developing bodies are more sensitive to radiation, and its targeted approach helps reduce the potential long-term effects of radiation, such as growth abnormalities and developmental issues. Similarly, adult patients with tumours near critical structures can benefit significantly from it due to its precision.
Effective for specific cancer types
It has been proven effective in treating various types of cancer, particularly those located in areas with critical structures nearby. These include brain tumours, spinal cord tumours, head and neck cancers, lung cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, and certain paediatric cancers.
Availability and accessibility
It was once limited to only a few specialized centres worldwide, but its availability has increased over the years. Many leading medical institutions offer it as a comprehensive cancer option. This expansion has made it more accessible to patients who can benefit from this advanced modality.
Treatment duration and frequency
The duration and frequency can differ depending on the type and stage of cancer. Generally, such therapies are delivered in multiple sessions called fractions over several weeks. The radiation oncologist determines the schedule based on individual patient needs and goals.
It is often part of a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment. It is commonly combined with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or other targeted therapies to maximize the chances of successful outcomes. The plan is tailored to each patient’s specific situation and determined by a team of specialists, including radiation oncologists, medical physicists, and other healthcare professionals.
Ongoing research and advancements
It is a rapidly evolving field, and ongoing research and technological advancements continue to improve its effectiveness and accessibility. Researchers are studying the outcomes of this therapy for various cancer types, comparing it to other treatment modalities, and optimizing protocols. These advancements aim to further enhance outcomes and expand the patient numbers who can benefit from this advanced therapy.
In conclusion, proton cancer treatment offers a highly targeted and precise approach to cancer treatment, minimizing damage to healthy tissues and reducing long-term side effects. Its effectiveness in treating specific cancer types and increasing availability has become an essential option for patients seeking the best possible outcomes in their journey. As research and technological advancements continue, it is likely to play an even more significant role in the fight against cancer.