The brain is your command center. It sends signals to all parts of your body on how to work, how to understand what you see and hear, and stores your memories. So, if damage is done to the brain â€“ through traumatic injury or cancer, the brain is not able to complete the commands.
When a person has brain cancer there are several common treatments available: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of both (Avoiding treatment is not recommended). Another alternative, that is not as common and non-invasive, is â€œProton Therapy.â€
Proton therapy has been around for a while, but is very expensive and scientists canâ€™t agree as to whether it is as effective as conventional radiation treatments. According to doctors at MD Anderson (Cancer) Proton Center, proton therapy is â€œAn advanced type of radiation treatment that uses a beam of protons to irradiate â€“ or deliver radiation â€“ directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and other critical areas or vital organs.â€
Conventional radiation therapy uses x-ray beams that pass through healthy tissue to get to the cancerous ones. Since the beams have to pass through the healthy tissue they destroy everything in its path â€“ much like a tornado. That means that healthy tissue along the way will be destroyed or damaged as well as the tumor. The x-rays bombard the area with their beams, sending the cancerous cells it doesnâ€™t destroy to scatter into healthy surrounding tissue.
With protein therapy, beams of protons are especially targeted to kill the cancerous cells, leaving the surrounding tissue alone. This is especially helpful with tumors that are difficult to get to, or close to vital organs.
Much like a missal that can lock on to a target, a low dose of radiation identifies location, size, shape and volume of the tumor and directs the â€œsupercharged protonsâ€ at the designated area.
Due to the high precision rate, proton therapy is being explored much more for complex tumors such as in the brain or around the spinal cord. It is also being explored as a much more desirable method in the treatment of children with cancer.
The ability to limit tissue damage, as well as to attack the cells in such a way that damaged cells do not scatter to healthy tissue, means there is a lower risk of recurrence, and life-altering side effects will result from proton treatments.
With the limiting of damage from proton treatment to only the damaged areas of the brain, the need for extensive rehabilitation may not be necessary, but there will still be a period of adjustment while the brain recovers from the trauma. During this time it is recommended that memory training sessions, memory aids other brain exercises be used in order to strengthen those weakened by the disease, or compensate for areas that have been lost.
The remarkable thing about the brain is that it can often learn to reroute the commands if there is some kind of obstacle until the damaged area can recover, or repairs can be made. Scientists are still learning about the remarkable feats the brain can accomplish.
Practical Memory Institute: http://www.thememoryworks.com/about.html
About.com – The Anatomy of the Brain: http://psychology.about.com/od/biopsychology/ss/brainstructure_2.htm
MD Anderson Cancer Center â€“ Proton Therapy Can Save More Than Just Your Life: www.mdanderson.org/proton