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What is Proton Therapy and Why is it Essential for Pediatric Cancer Patients

By on September 7, 2017

There are now many forms of cancer treatments sweeping the globe, and one of them is photon therapy. It’s a highly refined form of treatment that uses protons to target tumors while minimizing collateral damage to the surrounding organs. It’s not yet available in several areas around the globe, and it can even only be found in some areas in the United States.

HuffPost’s Devishobha, the founder of Kidskintha, probes deeper into the matter through an interview with the medical director of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Proton Therapy Center in Seattle, Washington Dr. Remash Rengan. Both talk about this particular form of pediatric cancer treatment and its benefits for cancer patients everywhere.

proton therapy

An Alternative Way of Treating Cancer

Dr. Rengan states in the interview that the SCCA Proton Therapy Center uses a highly targeted proton beam to expose tumors to radiation. However, and unlike other forms of cancer treatments, this particular variant precisely focuses the beam onto the tumor and nothing else, thus minimizing radiation exposure to the nearby organs and tissue. The use of this treatment helps the patient by reducing the risk of short and long-term side effects caused by exposing their bodies to radiation. The doctor also explains that, at the time of writing, their center is the only medical facility in the Pacific Northwest that has this form of cancer treatment.

The Difference of Using Protons to Treat Cancer Cells Compared to Other Types of Cancer Treatments

Standard cancer treatment practices use X-ray beams that’ll enter and pass through the patient’s body. However, because X-rays can penetrate the person’s system efficiently, all the surrounding tissue and organ lying in front and beyond the cancer cells will also become exposed to the radioactive particles, thus it poses potentially harmful side effects to the patient. The use of protons, on the other hand, won’t pass through the patient’s body due to their mass. Hence, specialized medical technicians and practitioners can specifically target cancer cells and tumors while significantly reducing any collateral damage to the surrounding healthy tissue and organs.

What are the Cancers That Can be Cured With This Treatment?

Even though protons are useful in treating most cancer types that do require the use of radiation, this particular treatment can be best established as useful for tumors that are found within close proximity to radiosensitive organs, such as tumors found on the eyes and nervous system. As for pediatric patients, Dr. Rengan explains that protons have now become an indispensable tool as it helps children who’re particularly sensitive to the negative side effects of radiation.

Another excellent aspect of this particular form of cancer treatment is it can be used in conjunction with other types of care, such as surgery and chemotherapy.