What you need to know about proton therapy

9:36 AM, Aug 24, 2018

Almost 9 million people die due to causes incident to cancer each year according to reports by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. That number is expected to grow, possibly reaching 21 million patients diagnosed with cancer each year and 13 million deaths per year by 2030.

Luckily, medical research is doing more than ever to discover improved methods of cancer treatment that offer better outcomes and fewer side effects. Proton therapy is one of the more recent advancements in treatment options and it is now available at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak in Michigan.

Find out what makes proton therapy different from other treatments and how it can make a difference in outcomes for cancer patients.

Precise tumor targeting

Radiation therapy is an important part of cancer treatment for about half of all people who have cancer. "Some cancers are very sensitive to radiation," according to the American Cancer Society.

"Radiation may be used by itself in these cases to make the cancer shrink or completely go away," the American Cancer Society says. More often, however, radiation is given in conjunction with chemotherapy treatments, before surgery to shrink a tumor or following surgery to prevent recurrence.

The problem with radiation therapy, however, is that it can impact surrounding tissues, leading to short- and long-term side effects, including a higher chance of getting another cancer.

With pencil beam scanning proton therapy, however, doctors can "scan the tumor using the proton beam spot by spot and layer by layer," according to the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center.

"The beam is directed and delivered with such precision that healthy tissue and organs receive essentially no radiation dose," the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center indicates.

Fewer side effects

Because proton therapy is so targeted, about 60 percent less radiation is delivered to healthy tissue near the tumor while the tumor itself receives a higher concentration of radiation. Cancer.net points out this "increases the chances that all tumor cells are destroyed . . . and may cause fewer and less severe side effects during and after treatment."

Patients experience little to no pain during proton therapy. Side effects following treatment are usually mild but could include skin problems like redness or peeling, hair loss at the treatment site, fatigue and headaches. You will tend to see less late side effects than with traditional radiation therapy, as well, that usually vary depending on the type of cancer and where radiation therapy was administered.

Irregular tumors can be treated

Proximity to other vital organs is one of the biggest difficulties of treating cancer tumors. With proton therapy, irregularly shaped tumors which might be difficult to operate on and tumors close to critical organs can be treated.

Cancer.net lists cancers of the central nervous system, eye, head and neck, lung, liver, prostate and pelvic as cancers which respond well to proton therapy.

To find out more about proton therapy and other groundbreaking treatments for cancer, visit or contact Beaumont.

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