Proton therapy is one of the radiation therapy varieties. X-rays penetrate well into the body tissues and effectively deal with cancer cells. It is dangerous not only for the tumor, but also for healthy tissues, like any ionizing radiation.
These rays are scattered in different directions, so the whole patient’s body also receives a small dose. Such an effect doesn’t have a positive influence so improved protons are used today, which aren’t subtle photons (they have mass). Therefore, it is easier to send them to the right place without scattering to the sides. One more remarkable feature of protons is that irradiation reaches a maximum only in the last few millimeters of the particle’s flight. This maximum is called the Bragg peak and it depends on the energy the proton received in the accelerator. Thus, the specialist can direct the dose to the desired depth and nearby the tumor tissues will not be damaged. Proton defaces surrounding healthy tissue much less than X-rays that’s why it’s used mostly for glioblastomas, inoperable sarcomas, uveal melanoma (a tumor of the choroid), chondrosarcoma, and chordomas.
Why proton therapy for glioblastoma is a good solution?
The destruction of the tumor can be carried out in one short-term session (through the great concentration of the ray).
It allows bringing a decent dose of radiation to the blastoma and causes less pronounced side effects during and after the treatment course.
Proton therapy sessions are carried out on an outpatient basis, so full hospitalization is not necessary.
The reduction of toxicity during specified treatment does not occur due to a decrease in the effectiveness of exposure.
In order to ensure that the irradiation zone exactly matches the tumor and does not become displaced (to adjacent tissues), the patient cannot move during the procedure. Different fixing devices are used. For example, a special mask is put on in the case of glioblastoma. The position of the tumor is assessed using computed tomography or MRI before irradiation starting. Special marks are applied to the skin – they should stay remained until the end of the course. According to experts, proton therapy is well combined with other types of treatment in oncology, such as surgery, and classical radiation therapy.
Is it dangerous?
It’s not a secret that proton therapy brings ionizing radiation, so there are some side effects, but they are far from being as strong as after classical radiation therapy. Redness may temporarily occur at the site of irradiation, sometimes hair falls out.
Proton therapy is not such a common and affordable method as radiation therapy. A few clinics can afford the construction of a huge particle accelerator. Nevertheless, proton therapy can be taken in some European countries (Germany, Czech Republic, etc.). Find steady clinics with experienced specialists, who will weigh up pro et contra, and identify whether this treatment method is indicated for a particular patient.