Proton therapy is a type of radiation is used to treat various cancers. During treatment, the radiation stops at a very specific point in the targeted tissue; conventional radiation continues beyond the tumor. Researchers report that as much as 99%, 94%, and 74% of men treated with proton therapy with low-, intermediate-, and high-risk prostate cancer, respectively, have no signs of cancer recurrence after five years of follow-up.
In addition to prostate cancer, proton therapy has been an excellent treatment for breast cancer. Since the radiation can stop at an exact location, in breast cancer, this means no radiation will reach the heart and on average 50% less radiation reaches the lungs compared with conventional treatments.
According to OncLive, though proton beam radiation offers plenty of distinct advantages compared with standard radiation, there is still more work to be done before this breast cancer treatment gains even more popularity.
“Proton therapy is (comprised of) particles, (while) standard radiation is [comprised of] photons,” said Kimberly S. Corbin, MD, a radiation oncologist at the Mayo Clinic. “By way of the physical properties of beam particles, they are heavier, and they have different dosimetric characteristics; (this enables us to) better spare tissue for radiation therapy. Usually, when X-rays interact with tissue, they deposit energy along their path, and there is an entrance dose and an exit dose.”
Radiation itself is used as a component of therapy for all stages of breast cancer. Proton therapy is especially beneficial for breast cancer patients since it’s minimizing damage to nearby tissue and critical organs. Sadly, about 1 in 8 U.S. women — 12% — will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. As of 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women across the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
By reducing both high and low doses of radiation to other parts of the body, compared to conventional radiation therapy, proton treatments are great for providing controlled and accurate beams of radiation to combat breast cancers and other diseases. As more work and research continues to be done, the future of proton therapy remains optimistic in the ongoing fight against cancer.