So, what is proton beam therapy?
Proton beam therapy is a technically advanced and targeted form of radiotherapy. It can be used as a stand-alone treatment or alongside other cancer treatments. For example, it can be given before surgery to reduce a tumour, or following surgery after a tumour has been removed, to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
What is particularly exciting about proton beam therapy is that it can be used to treat hard-to-reach cancers (like those near critical organs or structures). Proton beam therapy is delivered with great accuracy, and there is no ‘exit dose’ of radiation. The radiation targeted at a tumour stops at the tumour and typically goes no further. This means there’s a lower risk of experiencing the side effects usually associated with conventional radiotherapy which uses x-ray/photon technology. This makes it easier for patients to undertake the treatment, including those receiving combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy. And this, in turn, can also reduce the risk of secondary tumours occurring later on in life.
The accuracy of proton beam therapy also means that higher, safe doses of radiation can be used, shortening the treatment cycle and enabling patients to focus on their recovery sooner. Although proton beam therapy can be used to treat a range of cancers, as with conventional radiotherapy, side effects may occur. It is also not a treatment that is suitable for everyone, unfortunately. If your treatment doesn’t involve proton beam therapy, that doesn’t mean you’re being offered an inferior therapy. Each person is different, so your oncologist will consider all the facts about your cancer before advising you about the best way forward.