Proton therapy, also known as, Proton beam therapy, is the very advanced radiation treatment accessible today – it kills cancer cells, but does not strike surrounding healthy tissue, almost as much as, traditional radiation treatment does. Proton therapy, a kind of particle treatment, directs proton beams with great perfection at cancer cells.
In proton treatment, a high energy beam of protons, instead of great energy X-rays, is applied to deliver a dose of radiation treatment, to cancer patients.
This article provides an easy-to-understand and description, on what proton therapy is, how it is different from conventional radiation therapy and its advantage concerning tumor shape. We also look at which cancers proton treatment is being used for these days, and its comparative protection concerning secondary cancer threat.
What is proton therapy?
Although proton therapy is claimed to be a better specific form of treatment, there is some conflict on whether it offers a general advantage in comparison to other much cheaper treatments.
The National Health Service in the UK states that proton treatment is better with some rare cancers where the tumors are situated at the base of the skull or spine. With traditional radiation treatment, such tumors cannot be focused because of the threat of damage to vital surrounding tissue (nerves).
The MD Anderson Center at the University of Texas explains proton treatment as a, cancer-eradicating equipment with sub-millimeter perfection that can target a sufferer’s tumor “while sparing nearby healthy tissues and reducing side effects. In its very simple words, that’s proton therapy.”
The distinction between proton therapy and standard radiation therapy
Standard radiation therapy – the X-ray beams deposit energy along their direction before reaching their target (e.g. on the body’s surface) and also beyond. The X-ray beam carries on beyond the tumor, releasing energy and damaging tissue – this is known as the “exit dose”.
In other terms, the focused cancer cells get strike, but so too do those along the X-ray beam before and past the tumor. This can cause to health issues after treatment.
Proton therapy – the physician can make a decision exactly when and where the proton produces most of its energy. This point is known as the “Bragg peak”.
The health care professional can figure out the exact place of the Bragg peak, thus imposing maximum damage to cancer cells and minimal harm to nearby tissue.
Radiation dose – with standard radiation treatment, a lower-than-desired dose has to be applied to minimize the harm to healthy cells.
With proton treatment, on the other hand, the physician can use much higher radiation doses while at the same time safeguarding around tissue and important organs.