Proton therapy is the most modern method of radiation therapy. Proton therapy has been carried out since the 2000s, but during this time it has proven itself as highly accurate and effective treatment method for malignant tumours.
- What is proton therapy?
- Benefits of proton therapy
- Indications for proton therapy
- How is the proton therapy session carried out?
- Where can I undergo proton therapy?
- The costs for proton therapy course in different countries
- How can I undergo proton therapy abroad?
What is proton therapy?
The essence of radiation therapy is the destruction of DNA in cancer cells with the help of ionizing radiation. As a result, they stop dividing and die. Radiation therapy is carried out with the use of different types of radiation, namely X-ray, neutron, proton, etc.
Conventional radiation therapy involves the use of photon energy (X-rays). It is known that X-ray passes through the body. As the X-ray moves, the destructive energy is released. This means that not only the tumor is irradiated, but also healthy tissues on the path of the beam. Damage to healthy tissues can subsequently lead to health problems.
Proton therapy differs from the conventional radiation therapy. This type of radiation therapy is based on the use of proton energy. Protons have a special movement trajectory. These particles release most of their energy at the final point of their path – the Bragg peak. When the energy is released, the protons stop. The radiologist can calculate the Bragg peak in the patient's body so that it coincides with the tumor center. As a result, the tumor will get the maximum dose of radiation, and the healthy tissue will get the minimum one.
Benefits of proton therapy
Proton radiation therapy is increasingly being used in the treatment of cancer. It is currently the most accurate and sparing irradiation technique.
Proton therapy has the following benefits:
- It can be used for the treatment of tumors located near vital organs: the brain and spinal cord, eyes, heart, large vessels and nerves
- It can be used in pediatric practice
- Lower risk of adverse reactions as compared to the conventional radiation therapy
- Good tolerance of the procedure, the patients do not need additional care
Indications for proton therapy
Proton therapy is used for the treatment of many cancers in adults and children. However, due to its unique properties, this treatment method is most in demand in the treatment of tumors located near the vital organs. For example, proton irradiation for breast cancer therapy avoids damage to the heart and lungs, and as for intracranial tumors, it prevents damage to the optic nerve.
Main indications for proton therapy:
- Brain cancer
- Head and neck tumors
- Spinal cancer
- Esophageal carcinoma
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
- Prostate cancer
Currently, radiologists study the possibility of applying proton irradiation for gastric cancer therapy as well as the use of proton irradiation for pancreatic cancer therapy. The doctors suggest that proton therapy has a potential advantage over the conventional radiation therapy in these cases. Proton therapy reduces the radiation load on the intestine and reduces the risk of related complications.
Despite its high efficiency, proton therapy still has limitations. This type of radiation therapy can only be used for solid tumors with clear boundaries. Therefore, proton therapy for metastases is not carried out.
Proton therapy in pediatrics
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used in the treatment of children with cancer. It is known that radiation exposure in childhood is associated with certain risks, since growing organism is very sensitive to X-rays. The conventional radiation therapy can be accompanied by side effects, including long-term ones. One of the side effects of radiation therapy is the development of secondary cancer in older age.
Proton therapy is the most advanced type of radiation therapy that precisely affects the tumor and does not damage the surrounding healthy tissue. Thanks to this type of exposure, the risk of side effects, including secondary cancer in the future, is minimal. For this reason, proton therapy is actively used in pediatric practice nowadays. Proton therapy is especially in demand in the case of brain tumors, as well as sarcomas of the skull base, spine and pelvis.
How is the proton therapy session carried out?
Proton therapy is performed on an outpatient basis. The patients usually undergo proton therapy 5 times a week and the entire treatment course can last 4-7 weeks. In some cases, it may take only a couple of sessions – it depends on the peculiarities of the disease.
Proton therapy starts with careful planning. During the planning session, the patient takes the required position on the linear accelerator table. The special devices can be used in order to fix body parts, for example, thermoplastic head masks. This position is required for each irradiation session.
Then computed tomography of the body is performed. Based on the images obtained, radiologists along with medical physicists determine the area of exposure and develop an individual radiation therapy plan for each patient. The radiation plan indicates how deep, at what angle, and with what intensity the beam will affect the tumor. The preparation of irradiation plan takes three to ten days.
The patient comes to the hospital for proton therapy on the appointed day. He lays down on the linear accelerator table. Then the CT scan is performed in order to make sure that the patient is in the correct position. The correct position ensures accurate direction of proton beams to the tumour.
After preparation completion, the medical staff will leave the room. They will monitor the treatment from the next room. Medical equipment is launched. The cyclotron accelerates the speed of protons. Then, under the influence of a strong magnetic field, the protons are collected in a narrow beam, which is directed into the body at the predetermined depth, where the tumor is located. Gantry can move around the body, thereby irradiating the tumor from different angles.
The proton therapy session takes only a few minutes. Preparation for radiation therapy lasts much longer – 20-30 minutes. The patient does not feel any discomfort during the proton therapy session. Fatigue and redness of the skin in the irradiated area are possible after the session completion.
Where can I undergo proton therapy?
Proton therapy is the advanced radiation therapy method. It is becoming more and more popular. However, proton therapy requires very expensive and complex medical equipment. As of today, about 60 Proton Therapy Centers work in the world.
In particular, Proton Therapy Clinics are located in the following countries:
Proton therapy is more expensive medical procedure as compared to the conventional radiation therapy. However, in certain cases described above, proton therapy is indispensable. In any case, the decision on the appropriateness of proton therapy will be made by your physician.
The costs for proton therapy course in different countries
How can I undergo proton therapy abroad?
The medical tourism operator Booking Health will help organize proton therapy abroad. We cooperate directly with the leading Proton Therapy Centers in Europe and can arrange the treatment as soon as possible.
Booking Health offers the following services:
- Help in selection of the medical center
- Communication with the medical center
- Preparation of the necessary documents
- Provision of favorable price for medical services, without overpricing and additional coefficients for foreign patients
- Monitoring of the medical program at all its stages
- Organization of additional diagnostics and treatment, if necessary
- Booking airline tickets and hotels, transfer from the airport and back
If you want to undergo treatment abroad, you can leave a request on the Booking Health website. The manager will call you back and discuss all details of the upcoming trip with you.
Choose treatment abroad and you will for sure get the best results!
Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova