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The brain is the control center for the body and any damage to its highly specialized cells can result in life altering changes. So what happens to those who are diagnosed with a brain tumor, and what treatment options are available for them? Well with 29 functioning facilities worldwide and more on the way, proton therapy is now another option they can add to their list.

Proton therapy, though not new, is not very common due to its expense and the debate over its worth when compared to conventional radiation treatments. While the jury is still out on most cancers, it is agreed that this treatment is considered ideal for patients with hard to reach tumors in sensitive tissues like those found in the brain, central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, lung, prostate, certain sarcomas and pediatric cancers.

The reason this treatment is beneficial is because of its precision, sparing the surrounding healthy tissue from damaging radiation. The goal of any type of radiation therapy is to send charged particles into cancerous tissue in order to disrupt or damage the cell’s DNA. Cancer cells have an increased rate of cell division and a reduced ability to repair their damaged DNA so they are more susceptible to this form of treatment. Since this treatment is produced by an external energy beam the charged particles can scatter into surrounding tissue causing damage and killing healthy cells along with the cancerous ones.

Proton therapy differs from conventional x-ray radiation because protons have a large mass so there is less side scatter into the surrounding tissue. The therapy releases the majority of its destructive energy within a small range inside the tumor so there is less entrance dose and no exit dose. A particle accelerator is used to produce the energy beam and depending on the tissue depth of the tumor, higher or lower energy charged particles are used.

The precision of this therapy makes it more effective in treating patients with anatomically complex tumors such as in the brain, at the base of the skull or along the spinal cord. It is also useful in treating pediatric patients because of their high sensitivity to the side effects of radiation treatment. The ability to limit tissue damage during treatment means there is a lower risk of having any potentially life-altering side effects.

Compliments of Practical Memory Institute