Proton Therapy Offers Hope

A relatively new form of therapy is showing itself effective for helping patients with some forms of cancer beat the disease while reducing the potential for side effects. Although not widely available, proton therapy is gaining ground as more patients undergo this treatment with positive results.

Where available, proton therapy is sometimes used in place of standard IMRT radiation therapy to battle cancers such as those found in the prostate. Both treatments operate using the same theory. They involve using radiation to kill off cancer cells while aiming to prevent their return. IMRT has been the gold standard in radiation treatment for years, but proton therapy’s distinct differences are making this alternative rather attractive in some cases.
Both forms of therapy involve directing radiation beams at a tumor or tumor site to ensure the effective eradication of cancer cells.

IMRT is considered highly precise and very effective, but healthy nearby tissue is sometimes damaged since the beams cannot discriminate between healthy cells and cancerous ones. Side effects in the treatment of prostate cancer, for example, may include incontinence and impotence. Proton beams are considered much more exact than other forms of radiation therapy. They enable doctors to more readily avoid healthy tissue while enabling them to strengthen the dosages of treatment delivered. The precision dramatically reduces side effect risks.

While the jury is still out on proton beam therapy, the body of research is growing. At the University of Florida’s Proton Therapy Institute, for example, the numbers are showing a great deal of promise. The results of a five-year study are not yet available, but researchers indicate a 98 percent rate of no recurrence in prostate cancer patients deemed low to intermediate risk.

Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are urged to discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. The best treatment recommendation will depend on the individual case.

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