Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of external radiotherapy that uses high-energy proton beams instead of photon x-ray beams or electrons. Carefully measured doses of protons are delivered to the precise area needing treatment, using the latest IBA ProteusONE technology. This ensures that the delivery of proton beam therapy is highly accurate and prevents the risk of radiation reaching surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiotherapy is used to kill and destroy cancer cells. It utilises radiation in the form of high-energy x-rays, known as photons, to kill and damage the cancerous cells and prevent their growth and reproduction. It can be used as a non-surgical option to treat cancer, and it can also be used to shrink a tumour or in combination with other treatments.
The Rutherford Cancer Centres and Elekta are bringing the next generation of personalised adaptive radiotherapy technology to oncology centres across the UK, with the new MR-linac Elekta Unity available at the Rutherford Cancer Centre North West in Liverpool in 2021.
Bowel cancer affects the colon and rectal areas of the large intestine in the body. Bowel cancer is also often referred to as colorectal cancer, as it is usually the colon or rectum where cancer cells have occurred, and it is these two areas of the body that make up the bowel’s large intestine.
The bowel’s function is to absorb and process food that enters the body and eliminate the waste through the anus via the rectum.
Rutherford Treatment Options
Proton Beam Therapy
Types of bowel cancer
Cancer cells that occur within the bowel, often develop from non-cancerous growths called polyps, but it’s important to remember that, not all polyps develop cancer cells. Sometimes cancer cells that originate in the bowel spread to other areas of the digestive system or parts of the body. The most common areas affected, when cancer cells spread from the bowel, are the liver and lungs.
Small bowel - the smallest part of the digestive system, it is made up of three sections. Its function is to breakdown food and absorbs minerals and nutrients into the body
Colon – this makes up the largest part of your bowel, and it absorbs water into the body
Rectal – this is located between the lower part of your colon and the anus. It holds waste after the rest of the digestive system has processed it
Anal – the end part of your bowel where waste is expelled from the body
Symptoms caused by bowel cancer can depend on where in the digestive system it is situated and the rate at which it is growing. Some people may have symptoms, whereas others may not experience any. Early diagnosis will make treating bowel cancer easier, so if you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to see your GP if symptoms persist over several weeks.
Here are some common symptoms:
A change in bowel habits that can’t be explained – which could cause persistent constipation or diarrhoea
Blood in stool, or bleeding from the back passage (rectum) – it may vary in colour
Unexplained weight loss
Pain in your abdomen or back passage (due to a blockage/obstruction)
Feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowel properly after you go to the toilet
Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness
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If your GP thinks you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of bowel cancer, they will arrange for you to have a physical examination and may send you to a for further diagnostics scans and tests. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome of treatment will be. Several tests and examinations can help diagnose bowel cancer. Some may be carried out with your GP; then you may be referred to a hospital or specialist for further scans or test.
Ways bowel cancer can be diagnosed:
A physical examination carried out by a GP
A digital rectal examination carried out by a GP
Scans such as x-ray, CT, PET, MRI or Ultrasound
Stool sample test
A biopsy - taking and testing a tissue sample from the body
Endoscopy, colonoscopy or virtual colonoscopy
Treating bowel cancer with proton beam therapy
Treatment for bowel cancer will often involve different treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. A consultant oncologist at the Rutherford will be able to discuss with you if your case of bowel cancer will benefit from proton beam therapy. Proton beam therapy can be used to treat bowel cancer, usually before or after surgery, or following chemotherapy. The using of proton beam therapy will aim to shrink a tumour before removal, or after surgery, to kill any remaining local cancer cells that may have been left behind.
The benefits of treating bowel cancer with proton beam therapy
As bowel cancer can be situated near other parts of the body and vital organs, proton beam therapy can be an effective treatment choice, as it will deliver minimal radiation dose to healthy tissues surrounding the tumour or cancer cells that should be avoided, while precisely targeting the cancer. Sensitive areas near the bowel may include:
*Anal, rectal and colon cancers may benefit from proton beam therapy treatment. However, in some instances, it may not be suitable and will depend on the location and stage of the cancer.
There are other treatment options that can be used to treat bowel cancer, either before, after or alongside proton beam therapy. Please see other treatment options available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres below:
Being diagnosed with bowel cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on bowel cancer treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed on planning your treatment pathway.
Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.