Proton Beam Therapy

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy in which doctors use positively charged radioactive particles to treat prostate cancer.  Understanding proton therapy radiation treatment for prostate cancer involves learning the benefits of proton therapy as well as understanding how it differs from traditional radiation therapies.

    How It Works

  1. Because protons target and kill the DNA of a cell, doctors began using proton beams to treat cancerous tumors, where "rogue" cells multiply and grow at an abnormal rate. The charged particles in a proton beam kill the cancer cells at the DNA level, stopping growth and ultimately stopping the cancer. The relatively large mass of a proton due to the bragg peak means that there is little scatter from firing a beam of them at a specific target--which means doctors have a more exact, focused tool to target cancer cells than other types of radiation therapy.
  2. How It Differs From Other Radiation Therapies

  3. The biggest difference between proton therapy and other, more traditional types of radiation therapy is the lack of damage to surrounding tissues. Because proton beams are very focused, doctors can use higher dosages of radiation with the confidence that stray radiation will not affect surrounding organs or tissues, such as the bladder or the rectum. The delivery method--using a particle accelerator to supercharge the protons and then using magnets to aim them into the patient's body--is another difference. A third major difference is side effects. With no radiation scatter to nearby tissues due to the bragg peak, patients usually do not experience the exhaustion, soreness or nausea that traditional therapies cause. Although some patients experience some warmth or redness, proton therapy has few side effects.
  4. Benefits of Proton Therapy

  5. The primary benefit of proton therapy is accuracy: Doctors have in a proton beam a much more exact tool to treat prostate cancer. Because of the focused approach, doctors can also use a higher dose of radiation to kill the cancer without risk to surrounding tissues, such as the rectum or bladder. Proton therapy is non-invasive (meaning no cutting of the body is necessary), painless and has a very low risk of side effects. Treatments take place on an outpatient basis, lasting around two minutes per session over several weeks. Proton therapy does not affect a patient's energy levels and requires no recovery time.

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