No matter where it appears in a person’s body, cancer is a serious condition—but certain cancers, if caught early enough, can be treated or cured. Prostate cancer is an example of a condition that has a high cure and survival rate; it also tends to stay localized, meaning it doesn’t spread quickly to other areas of the body. But other cancers, like mesothelioma, can affect a larger area and spread to other organs easily. That can make treating them tricky, since many treatments destroy healthy tissue along with cancerous cells.
But for certain cancers, proton therapy can offer effective treatment that doesn’t damage healthy tissue. There are several differences between traditional therapies and proton therapy that, depending on your condition, make this alternative treatment worth exploring and discussing with your doctor and medical specialist.
How Traditional Radiation Therapies Work
Traditional cancer therapies, like radiation, often kill healthy cells near the cancerous cells. The ionized particles can permanently damage healthy tissue near the cancerous tissue, making the treatment of certain cancers challenging. For example, mesothelioma tumors are usually thin and spread across a larger area within or around organs. If the tumors spread close to critical organs, traditional therapies could cause damage to otherwise healthy tissue.
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Proton Therapy Benefits
Proton therapy uses a controlled ray, concentrating the radiation on a specific area of the body. This allows the proton particles to be delivered directly to or on the tumor, instead of hitting the healthy tissue around the cancerous tissue.
If a cancer is treated with chemotherapy, the patient’s whole body is exposed to the radiation. Proton therapy targets only the cancerous area, keeping the rest of the body from being exposed to damaging treatments. Proton therapy also allows doctors to concentrate on the cancerous area and deliver higher doses of radiation directly to the cancerous mass. It is also non-invasive and painless, and can be administered in an outpatient setting.
The lower risk of side effects is also a benefit of proton therapy. Chemotherapy and other radiation treatments also tend to sap a patient’s energy, making it difficult to continue a normal life. Proton therapy, in most cases, has no effect on a patient’s energy level. If it does have an effect on a patient, the effect is greatly minimized, and doesn’t require a long recovery period.
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Using Proton Therapy with Technology
Researchers have found that pairing proton therapy with intensity-modulation technology makes the proton therapy more precise. Simply put, the intensity-modulation technology allows doctors to create the shape of the treatment area with the proton beam. It decreases harm to healthy tissues even more than using proton therapy by itself.
While the researchers found that using intensity-modulation technology only provided a “slight improvement” in the target being covered, there were outstanding advantages in how even the radiation dose was in mesothelioma tumors, making the delivery of the dosage even safer near critical organs.
With less than ten medical centers offering proton therapy in the United States, it’s not a readily available treatment. But if you suffer from a cancer that can be treated by proton therapy, it’s an option that’s worth discussing with your doctors.