What is Proton Therapy?

July 21, 2022 Cancer Hub 263 Views

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What is the meaning of Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy or proton beam therapy is a type of radiation therapy, which is a form of treatment that uses high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. Proton therapy is a new form of radiation therapy that makes use of energy from positively charged particles or protons. At high energy, the protons can destroy the cancer cells. Proton therapy can be used alone to treat cancer, or it may be used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or x-ray radiation therapy to treat cancer. Proton therapy is a kind of external beam radiation therapy, in which a machine from outside the body painlessly delivers the radiation through the skin.

In this article, we will be discussing in detail proton therapy.

  • How does Proton Therapy work?
  • What types of cancers can be treated using Proton Therapy?
  • What is the purpose of Proton Therapy?
  • What is the diagnostic procedure before Proton Therapy?
  • How to prepare for Proton Therapy?
  • What is the procedure for Proton Therapy?
  • How to care after Proton Therapy?
  • What are the risks of Proton Therapy?
  • What is the cost of Proton Therapy in India?

How does Proton Therapy work?

  • Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation treatment that makes use of protons instead of x-rays.
  • In the case of a regular radiation therapy procedure, the beam of energy goes inside the body through the tumor and out on the other side.
  • However, protons are larger particles than those used in regular radiation. They help in releasing most of their energy within the tumor itself. This burst of energy appears on a graph in the form of a Bragg peak.
  • After the delivery of the energy to the tumor, the protons cannot exit the tumor and enter the healthy tissue on the other side.
  • Therefore, proton therapy causes less radiation exposure and potential damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

What types of cancers can be treated using Proton Therapy?

The following types of cancers can be treated using proton therapy:

  • Breast cancer
  • Brain tumors
  • Eye melanoma
  • Cancer in children
  • Liver cancer ( Know more about- What is Liver Cancer ? )
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma ( Know more about- What is Lymphoma ? )
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pituitary gland tumors
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Tumors that affect the spine
  • Tumors present in the base of the skull

What is the purpose of Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy is performed in the following cases:

  • To destroy the cancerous tumor
  • To shrink the tumor before removing it surgically
  • To shrink the tumor to ease pain and other cancer symptoms
  • After other forms of cancer treatments, like surgery or chemotherapy, to lower the risk of cancer growing again ( Know more about- What is Chemotherapy ? )

What is the diagnostic procedure before Proton Therapy?

The following diagnostic tests may be performed before proton therapy:

  • Physical examination: The doctor will evaluate the physical health of the patient. The patient’s symptoms and medical history are taken down.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests like CT scans and MRI scans may be done to obtain clear and detailed images of the suspected cancerous organ.
  • Endoscopy: A tube having a camera on one end is used by the doctor to examine an organ internally. ( Know more about- What is Endoscopy? )
  • Blood tests: These tests help in the diagnosis of any medical disorders that may be present.
  • Biopsy: This procedure involves the removal of the suspected tissue growth and sending it to the laboratory to evaluate under the microscope and confirm the diagnosis of cancer, and also check the type of cancer cell present.

How to prepare for Proton Therapy?

  • Tell the doctor if the patient has any medical diseases.
  • Tell the doctor if the patient is taking any herbs, medications, or supplements.
  • If the patient has a known sensitivity or allergy to anything, inform the doctor about the same.
  • The patient should stop smoking as quickly as possible.
  • The patient may be instructed by the doctor to stop or take certain medications before the procedure.
  • You will be positioned in a comfortable position on the table. 
  • It is important that the patient lies still during the treatment.
  • Cushions and restraints are used to place the patient in a comfortable position and help them hold still during treatment.
  • The radiation therapy team marks the area of the body that will receive the radiation using a temporary marker or permanent tattoos.
  • An imaging test such as an x-ray or CT scan is now performed to ensure that the body is in the same precise position during each subsequent therapy session.
  • CT scans and MRI scans may be performed during treatment to determine the area of the body that needs to be treated and how to reach it using proton beams.

What is the procedure for Proton Therapy?

  • The patient usually undergoes proton therapy five days a week for many weeks. However, in certain conditions, the patient needs to undergo only one or few treatment sessions.
  • Each proton therapy session lasts for only a couple of minutes. However, the patient may need to spend about 30 to 45 minutes preparing before each proton therapy session.
  • The patient may need weekly CT scans to check if the radiation dose received needs to be changed based on the changes seen in the tumor’s shape, size, or weight.
  • Once the patient is in the correct position the doctor’s team leaves the room and goes to another nearby area or room to monitor the patient, where they can still hear and see the patient.
  • A machine known as a gantry directs the proton beams at precise points on the patient’s body.
  • The noise made by the machine while it is turned on and delivering the proton therapy dose can be heard by the patient. However, the patient cannot feel the radiation that is being given during the session.

How to care after Proton Therapy?

  • Most people can go home on the same day after proton therapy.
  • Side effects like skin irritation and fatigue may develop over time.
  • The patient may experience only a few side effects at first. But, after many treatment sessions, the patient may experience extreme fatigue. ( Know more about- Why do people get fatigued? Home remedies for fatigue )
  • The patient may also notice redness resembling a sunburn in the area where the beams of the proton are directed.
  • The doctor will recommend regular follow-ups and periodic imaging tests during and after proton therapy to check if the cancer is responding to the treatment.

What are the risks of Proton Therapy?

The following complications could be associated with proton therapy:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of hair around the body part being treated
  • Soreness around the body part being treated
  • Skin redness around the body part being treated 
  • Headaches
  • Problems with eating or digestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

What is the cost of Proton Therapy in India?

The total cost of proton therapy in India can range from around INR 15,00,000 to INR 30,00,000. However, many prominent hospital doctors in India specialize in proton therapy. But the cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, apart from the cost of proton therapy, there will be an additional cost of living in a hotel and the cost of local travel. So, all the expenses come to a total of INR 20,00,000 to INR 39,00,000.

We hope that we could answer all your questions regarding proton therapy through this article.

If you need more information about proton therapy, you can contact a Radiation Oncologist.

We only aim to provide you with information through this article. We do not recommend any medication or treatment to anyone. Only a qualified doctor can give you good advice and the correct treatment plan.

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