Proton therapy is a new and non invasive cancer treatment with minimal side effects. It has many advantages due to which it is increasingly being used to treat cancers in sensitive locations, such as head and neck cancer treatment.
What is proton therapy?
Proton therapy uses a highly focused beam of radiation to target cancers. The technology has been around since 1995, but has only recently come into wider use. Earlier, limitations in imaging technology could not pinpoint the location of tumors accurately enough. At this time, over 67,000 people around the world have received proton therapy.
As of 2015, there are more than 30 particle therapy centers in Europe, Asia and the United States, and more are being built. By 2017, it is estimated that the U.S alone will have around 27 proton treatment centers.
How does it work?
Proton therapy is a non-invasive cancer treatment that focuses a beam of radiation on the affected area. Unlike conventional radiation treatments which also damage the surrounding healthy tissue, proton beam radiation stops at the affected tissue that is being targeted, and causes little to no damage to healthy tissues.
This makes is especially suitable for head and neck cancer treatment and cancers located near sensitive organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys. Proton radiation therapy is also suitable for breast cancer treatment and childhood cancers, because of its accuracy.
What are the advantages of proton therapy?
Proton therapy has many advantages over more conventional radiation treatments. It causes little to no damage to healthy surrounding tissues, leading to fewer side effects and complications. For example, in proton therapy for breast cancer, the heart receives no radiation, and the lungs receive 50% less radiation when compared to conventional radiation treatments for cancer.
This makes the recovery process from proton cancer treatment much quicker and easier. The chances of recurrence are also greatly reduced. In proton therapy for prostate cancer, recurrence rates are low. For men with a low risk of recurrence, 99% show no signs of recurrence five years after the treatment. For men with indeterminate and high risks of recurrence, 94% and 74% respectively are free of symptoms after five years.
For cancers located in sensitive regions like head and neck cancer treatment and breast cancer, proton therapy is being used with greater frequency. With minimal side effects and complications, better and quicker recovery, and low rates of recurrence, it has many advantages over conventional radiation treatments.