What is proton beam therapy?
Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of external radiotherapy that uses high-energy proton beams instead of photon x-ray beams or electrons. Carefully measured doses of protons are delivered to the precise area needing treatment, using the latest IBA ProteusONE technology. This ensures that the delivery of proton beam therapy is highly accurate and prevents the risk of radiation reaching surrounding healthy tissue. The aim of proton beam therapy may be to:
- Kill cancer cells
- Reduce the likelihood of cancer coming back
- Shrink a tumour to slow its growth and provide relief from symptoms
Your personalised treatment plan usually takes place over days or weeks, and you may hear these sessions called ‘fractions’. This is because the full dose of your treatment is divided into separate smaller doses.
Stress and anxiety are common for those who have been diagnosed with cancer, so it’s important to us that you feel involved and supported throughout your treatment and beyond. Your treatment team of highly skilled professionals will deliver your treatment, they are there to help you, so if you have any questions or concerns, they are always on-hand to address them.
You may already have some information about proton beam therapy from the news or from someone you know who has had the treatment. It can be useful to gain an understanding from someone with first-hand experience, but it’s important to remember that someone else’s experience may not always apply to you, as everyone is different.
How does proton beam therapy work?
The organs and tissues of your body are made up of tiny building blocks, which are called cells. Proton beam therapy damages cancer cells in a treated area, this stops their growth and over time, these cells die.
Proton beam therapy uses beams of protons to target cancerous tumours. Protons are small particles of an atom, and a ‘particle accelerator’ (also called a ‘cyclotron’) is used to speed up the protons to produce the beam. The latest form of proton beam therapy is called intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) with pencil beam scanning, an advanced technique that allows each dose to be precisely targeted.
The proton beam’s ability to be targeted during treatment allows for harder to reach tumours to be treated, as well as tumours that are in sensitive locations such as near the spine, in the brain, or affecting vital organs. Although it utilises high-energy protons to damage and kill cancer cells, the proton beam can be specifically targeted to a treatment area and made to ‘stop’ before affecting surrounding healthy tissue.
The benefits of proton beam therapy
There can be many benefits of proton beam therapy, and these will vary from person to person. The benefits of proton beam therapy over conventional radiotherapy are:
- Fewer side effects
- More accurate targeting of the area to be treated
- Treating hard to reach tumours that may be close to vital organs and tissue
- Lower radiation exposure to healthy tissue beyond the treatment area
- Greater planning flexibility with the potential for reducing the number of treatment sessions
- Can be combined with other treatments and therapies
Watch the video about Proton therapy: