Also known as proton beam therapy is a form of radiation that is used in cancer treatments. It applies simple elements call protons to do a similar job as X-Ray in traditional radiation therapy.
As a form of treatment, doctors focus the cancer-destroying beams on the actual area where there are cancer cells. While this radiation boasts of precise radiation delivery, its main advantage is the reduction of short and long-term effects of cancer treatment. Discover more about proton therapy in this post.
How does proton therapy work?
A simple explanation of how this radiation works are similar to traditional radiation therapies. It uses electrical energy to destroy or burn cancer cells.
For greater understanding, this type of radiation works by moving protons to a higher energy state using a particle accelerator, synchrotron, or cyclotron. The high energy state enables protons to pass directly through the tissue into the tumor. This results in a restricted bombardment of the elements on the tumor.
Protons have positive charges, therefore, attract opposite charges. When they are launched on molecules such as DNA, the negative area of the molecule will get attracted to the protons, hence disrupting the normal function of the molecule. Ultimately, this ends in the death of cancer cells.
Proton therapy sends rays to the exact location where it is required. The radiation kills more cancer cells and a few healthy tissues compared to other radiation treatments.
Types of cancers that can be treated by proton therapy.
Proton therapy is generally used to treat cancer in the early stages, 1, 2, or 3. It is used less frequently on stage four cancer treatment. It can be used independently or alongside other treatment options, such as chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, or the conventional radiation.
Types of cancers that are treated with this system include;
ü Brain cancer. The delivery of radiation directly to the affected area makes it easier to diagnose and treat brain tumors where even minor damage to nearby tissues can cause severe complications.
ü Lung cancer. The therapy can be used in the early stages of lung cancer that cannot be treated by surgery. Or for a repeat when the conventional radiation therapy has been used before.
ü Childhood cancer. As discussed before, this form of radiation therapy causes less damage to nearby tissues, and therefore, it is thought it can be helpful in cancers screening, diagnosis, and treatment in young children.
ü Liver cancers.
ü Head and neck cancers.
ü Esophageal cancers.
ü Gastric cancers.
ü Gallbladder cancers.
ü Eye cancer.
ü Cancers of the female reproductive systems like cervical cancers.
Also, non-cancerous like benign brain tumors can be treated by proton therapy.
What you should expect before treatment.
Your doctors will perform imaging tests to diagnose and plan the course of treatment. The imaging may include.
- CT scans, involving the use of X-Rays to capture images inside the body.
- MRI, which uses radio waves and magnets to create images of your inside.
You’ll be required to lie down completely to enable doctors to take good pictures of the tumor and the area around it. This also helps the focus the radiation directly on the affected area.
Also, expect the doctors to use specialized devices to hold some parts of your body. For example, you could be fitted with a specialized mask to keep your head in position when treating tumors in the brain, neck, or eyes.
Common side effects of proton therapy.
Though it is recommended that you go back to your normal routine after proton therapy, you may experience some side effects similar to most radiation treatments.
It is expected that you’ll feel extra tired after the session. This will go for some hours or days after which you may notice;
- Loss of hair around the treatment area.
- Low energy.
- Skin condition irritations and sores at the treatment locations.
- Digestive issues.
- Loss of appetite.
- Difficulty engaging in sexual activities, especially with female reproductive cancers.
Proton therapy has been poised as a safe and effective cancer treatment method, but it is very costly compared to the traditional radiation options. However, comparing the quality of this treatment and the less time it requires, these charges can be worth it.
With increased development and innovations, it can be the new alternative for cancer treatment. Remember to talk to your doctor if you plan to use this form of radiation.