Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy used by radiation oncologists to treat cancerous and some non-cancerous tumours. It uses high-powered energy particles known as protons instead of X-rays to directly deliver radiation to the tumours.
Proton beam therapy is often used as part of a treatment plan for cancer patients in conjunction with other surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Proton beam therapy vs radiotherapy
Proton beam therapy delivers less radiation outside of the tumour by directing a beam of proton particles that stops at the tumour, so the chances of damage to nearby healthy tissues are low.
Traditional radiotherapy delivers X-rays, or photons, to the tumour and around it. This means that radiation therapy can harm surrounding healthy tissues and cause significant side effects such as fatigue, hair loss, and skin changes.
Benefits of proton beam therapy
Minimises radiation exposure of healthy tissues
Fewer short and long-term effects
Lower integral dose per treatment
Can treat recurrent tumors in patients who have already received radiation
Potentially reduces the risk of secondary cancers
Improve patient's quality of life
Disadvantages of proton beam therapy
This newer form of treatment is not widely available as it requires highly specialised and advanced equipment. Due to the sophistication of its technology, proton beam therapy will also cost more than traditional radiation therapy.
Proton beam therapy, however, has been proven to be effective in adults and children, and is increasingly being used to treat cancer due to its few side effects, and minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs during the radiation process.
Proton beam therapy is used to treat advanced cancers, often in combination with other therapies such as surgery and chemotherapy. The procedure is also used to treat cancer that remains or comes back after X-ray radiotherapy.
Proton beam therapy can be used to treat conditions such as:
Proton beam therapy may not be suitable for patients who are:
Have systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, and other connective tissue disorders
What are the risks and complications of proton beam therapy?
Proton therapy is considered to be a safe and efficient form of radiation therapy. and has few side effects compared to traditional radiation therapy.
Nonetheless, protons may still transmit some of their energy to nearby tissues to a small degree, and cause side effects such as:
Hair loss, skin redness and soreness around the body part being treated
How do you prepare for proton beam therapy?
Before undergoing proton therapy, your medical team will walk you through a planning process to ensure that the proton beam reaches the exact location in your body where it is required. The steps include:
Finding the optimal treatment position for you. Since it is important that you stay still throughout treatment, having a comfortable position is vital. Cushions and restraints will be used to position you correctly and keep you still.
Proton beam therapy is usually performed in an outpatient setting. The number of therapy sessions required is determined by the type and stage of cancer.
The procedure usually takes a few minutes, but you may be expected to spend about 30 minutes in the treatment room during the entire session.
Before the procedure
You will lie on a table and the radiation oncologist will mark the precise locations on your body where proton beam therapy will be administered. The locations of healthy tissues will also be marked to avoid the areas.
Your oncologist will then leave the room and go to an area where they can monitor you and use delivery controls to deliver the proton beam.
During the procedure
Proton beam therapy is done using a machine called a gantry, which rotates around your body and focuses proton beams at marked places on your body. The protons pass through the equipment and are directed to the tumour. When the machine is turned on and delivers the proton therapy dose, you won't feel the proton beam as it enters your body.
It is important for you to stay still during the procedure.
We will be able to monitor your position from outside the room, so we can stop the treatment at any time if you feel unwell during the treatment.
After the procedure
You can resume your normal activities after your therapy session is completed. Rest assured that you will not be radioactive or emit radiation.
Care and recovery after proton beam therapy
After your session, you may experience fatigue and tiredness. You may also notice skin redness in the area where the proton beams were targeted. However, these side effects will subside on their own.
Depending on the area treated, you may also have other side effects like headaches and problems with eating and digestion.
Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals?
Mount Elizabeth Hospitals have over 40 years of experience in providing quality healthcare and up-to-date technology to manage and treat various types of cancer.
Our skilled medical and radiation oncologists, allied health professionals, and cancer care teams offer a full range of medical and surgical services, from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and palliative care.
Our cancer experts and radiation oncologists provide high-quality care for various types of cancers, with an emphasis on positive outcomes and holistic rehabilitation. We strive to deliver the best clinical outcome possible while also providing exemplary service and comfort.