Home News & Events News BLOG: Can Proton Beam Therapy be Combined with Other Treatments?

Proton beam therapy is one of the most innovative cancer treatments offered by the Rutherford Cancer Centres, and one of our most asked questions is, whether it can be used in combination with other treatments and (or) surgery.

It is common for cancer patients to undergo a treatment pathway that consists of more than one type of treatment. Depending on the type, stage, and area of the body where the cancer is present, proton beam therapy may be recommended as either a primary or secondary treatment in combination with radiotherapy,  chemotherapy, immunotherapy or surgery.

The Advantages of Combining Treatment

There are advantages to being able to combine different types of cancer treatment for patients, as this allows for a flexible approach, giving the patient the best chance of remission. Some forms of treatment are more effective in certain areas of the body than others.

One of the areas where using proton beam therapy can be beneficial, is to treat tumours in the brain, where reducing the long-term risk of damage to non-cancerous cells is of high importance. This treatment is also used to treat tumours in other harder to reach areas of the body, including the head and neck region, lungs, breasts, bowel and spine.

If the size of the tumour means that surgery may prove problematic, due to the presence of vital organs or sensitive body tissue, a course of proton beam therapy may be recommended by the consultant to help decrease the size of the tumour (called neoadjuvant therapy). This makes removal of the tumour easier and safer during surgery. Your consultant will be able to discuss the benefits of including proton beam therapy as part of your treatment plan.

When treatments, such as proton beam therapy are used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells that could not be removed by surgery, it is called adjuvant therapy. The decision as to whether to use a combination of treatments is heavily dependent on the stage and type of cancer that is present.

Combining Treatments to Prolong Life

Unfortunately, cancer may reach a stage where it cannot be cured and the best result possible is to prolong life the life of a patient. Combination therapy may be used in this instance, particularly for patients who may not be able to have radiotherapy or surgery.

All options would be discussed with both the patient and their family, clearly outlining the recommended course of action whilst offering all the support needed to help with getting through an understandably difficult time. A combination of treatment drugs and holistic care methods are often used at this stage, to help with any painful symptoms and enable the best quality of life possible for the patient, while potentially slowing down the growth of cancer cells.

What is the Difference Between Proton Beam Therapy and Radiotherapy?

On the face of it, it may appear that proton beam therapy and radiotherapy are one and the same, but that is simply not the case. Radiotherapy (such as external beam radiotherapy) delivers a beam of photons, or x-rays, in the direction of the tumour, and while most of the radiation will enter the body at its highest energy point and hit the cancer cells, it will also reach some healthy cells and tissue surrounding tumour, which can cause side-effects.

In contrast, proton beam therapy is a more precise form of cancer treatment that delivers a beam of high-energy protons directly at the tumour. Unlike traditional radiotherapy, the beam enters the body at a lower energy point and stops at the tumour site, where it delivers its highest level of energy - meaning that protons will not pass through to the surrounding area of the cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells largely untouched. This reduces the potential for side-effects such as damaging healthy tissue. Your consultant will be able to discuss the benefits of using proton beam therapy alongside other treatments, as part of your treatment plan.

Contact Rutherford Cancer Centres

If you have any questions relating to proton beam therapy and how it can be used in combination with other cancer treatments, please get in touch with the team at the Rutherford Cancer Centres today.

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