An 86-year-old man in Michigan who had been suffering from a brain tumor just became the first patient in the state to receive a revolutionary treatment known as proton therapy.
Retired manufacturing engineer Bill Baker has dealt with his share of struggles in life. He had once been diagnosed with colorectal cancer but was able to survive the illness. He also developed a tumor in his brain that was eventually treated through surgery.
However, earlier this year, Baker discovered that his brain tumor was starting to develop again and grow even larger than before. This led him to consider other forms of treatment such as proton therapy being offered by the Beaumont Health.
When he was convinced that the new treatment could help remove his tumor, Baker contacted Beaumont to undergo proton therapy. He became the first cancer patient in Michigan to receive the treatment.
What Is Proton Therapy?
Proton therapy is a form of cancer treatment that makes use of beams of sub-atomic particles (protons) to target and kill tumors in the body. Doctors use a "particle accelerator" to speed up the protons and then direct them toward cancerous cells.
The treatment is more accurate compared with conventional radiotherapy since its beam only destroys specific cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissues. This saves patients from suffering the usual side effects of radiotherapy such as nausea and disrupted organ functions.
While proton therapy may not be effective at treating all forms of cancer, it has been proven to work on many solid and localized tumors. These include eye tumors, brain and skull base tumors, head and neck cancers, lung and thoracic cancers, breast cancer, and liver tumors. The therapy can also be used on pediatric cancers.
Dr. Craig Stevens, head of Beaumont Health's radiation oncology, pointed out that proton beam therapy is an ideal treatment for cancer patients, especially those whose tumors are found close to their vital organs.
The treatment is also very helpful to children, who are vulnerable and most likely to suffer damage from conventional forms of radiotherapy. Stevens explained that proton therapy provides less radiation exposure to patients while also reducing any possible side effects.
Is Proton Therapy Better Than Conventional Cancer Treatments?
Despite its potential benefits, health experts still caution the public in choosing newer cancer treatments over existing ones.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom said proton beam therapy may lower the risk of damaging healthy tissues, but it is still unclear how effective it is in killing cancer cells. It is also not yet clear whether it is more effective at treating tumors than conventional radiotherapy.
Patients who undergo proton therapy are also screened to determine who will benefit the most from the treatment. Researchers have yet to find out whether it could also be recommended to more cancer sufferers.
The NHS reiterated that conventional radiotherapy is still both safe and effective in treating most cancer cases, with a low risk of developing complications. While these treatments may lead to some side effects, they often pass normally once patients are able to complete the course of their therapy.