Cancer is a tough topic. It’s a pervasive disease that comes in a seemingly unlimited amount of variance. Two particular forms of the disease affect men and women at alarming rates every year: prostate caner and breast cancer. There’s advanced medical technology battling against them daily. For prostate and breast cancer specifically, Proton Therapy is an effective and growing treatment practice.
There are a list of advanced cancer treatment options, among which proton therapy is increasingly attractive.
Reflecting back to Chemistry, a proton is a positively charged particle in an atom. Proton therapy is a type of non-invasive cancer treatment that targets cancerous tissue with concentrated radiation that stops at a specific point. Where conventional radiation may hit healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue, proton beam radiation is more accurately aimed at the infected area.
This is preferable for obvious reasons, yet particularly desirable for breast and prostate cancer patients. The breasts and prostate are physiologically specific areas surrounded by sensitive organs (heart, lungs, testicles, penis, gastrointestinal tract) that can be harmed by potential inaccuracies of conventional radiation treatment. Proton therapy for prostate cancer reduces the risk of impotency by its increased accuracy, leaving 94% of men sexually active post-treatment. For breast cancer patients, it’s similarly effective, boasting no radiation on the heart and 50% less radiation on the lungs during treatment.
The treatment is gentle, painless, and quick, taking about 15-45 minutes, while the cancerous area receives only a minute or two of direct proton therapy. Because of its accuracy, proton therapy for brain cancer and other small, targeted areas (lung, liver, eye, etc.) is used successfully. Proton therapy for prostate cancer sees no recurrence in five years of follow-ups from 99%, 94%, and 74% of low, medium, and high risk patients. An encouraging statistic against a disease that brings little hope.
Weighing your options for cancer treatment is an overwhelming, heartbreaking task. Proton therapy is on the rise, but it’s still a small operation. As of 2015, little more than 30 proton treatment centers existed worldwide, with only about 80 treatment rooms. While that seems minuscule, the results and direction of research have been positive. The advances in medical technology are encouraging and with personal research and healthy communication with your physician, cancer is beatable. While proton therapy is growing, we’re moving swiftly toward the end of cancer.