Guest Post from Felicia Baratz
Cancer treatments often take such a toll on the body because the treatments target all of the body’s cells, not just the cancer cells. Proton beam therapy, commonly known as proton therapy, helps cancer treatments target tumor areas without wreaking havoc on healthy cells. Not only can this spare your normal cells, but physicians can actually deliver higher concentrations of the laser beam to your tumors. For cancer patients and their families, it’s important to learn as much as you can about a treatment so that they can recover quickly and go back to living their lives.
What is proton beam therapy?
A proton is a hydrogen atom that does not contain electrons. Specialized equipment, known as a cyclotron or a synchrotron, energizes the protons for treatment. Then, physicians use specially-shaped devices and magnetic fields to control the dose and direction of the protons, targeting only tumors. Unlike existing radiation, which delivers x-rays or gamma rays through the entire body, proton therapy targets cancer cells and reduces delivery of the beam to healthy cells. Proton therapy is a newer form of radiation therapy, and is in the same vein of cancer treatment as radiation.
For family members or caregivers who will be taking care of a patient receiving proton therapy, there may be questions about how to care for a patient during his or her therapy. Each patient is different, but there are relatively few side effects to deal with. And because almost all proton therapy treatments are outpatient, talking to the doctor or specialist administering the therapy is best.
Who can benefit from proton therapy?
Not every patient can benefit from proton therapy, but people with certain types of cancer will find proton therapy effective. Proton therapy can be used for brain tumors (particularly meningiomas), eye melanomas, and head and neck cancers. Because every tumor is shaped differently, your team of doctors will provide you with patient-specific hardware that helps control the proton beam and maximize the dosage, while protecting healthy cells. During the course of proton beam therapy, you’ll receive proton beams from different directions; this helps reduce the likelihood of health complications from high beam doses. This therapy can also be effective for children, whose organs are still developing and may be damaged by more invasive therapies.
What to expect
If your doctor thinks proton therapy is a good fit for you, he or she may suggest it; however, don’t be afraid to suggest the treatment to your doctor as well. If you begin proton therapy, your radiation therapy team will help you find the best, most comfortable position for you to experience treatment. This will naturally depend on the location of your tumor. They will also perform imaging test to check the proton path, ensuring that the proton targets the cancer cells.
Before you commit to proton therapy, check with your health insurance provider to find out whether the insurance policy will cover this cancer therapy. Not all types of radiation or proton therapy will be covered by insurance, so find out the facts before you commit.
Where to go
Talk to doctors at your local cancer care center to find out about proton therapy treatments near you. While this is a newer form of radiation, expect to find proton therapy offered at major cancer hospitals like IU Health Proton Therapy in Indianapolis.
Prostate cancer patients who received proton therapy praised the treatment for its lack of harmful side effects and lack of pain during the treatment. Some patients also reported having a normal energy level and being able to continue performing activities of daily living they already enjoyed.
Felicia Baratz is a health enthusiast and blogger residing in Indianapolis, IN. As a caregiver, Felicia’s experiences heavily assist in her writing. Being a frequent contributor to doseofmyown.com, Felicia touches on the subjects of health, nutrition and overall well-being.