Once upon a time, proton beams sounded like something out of Star Trek. These days, doctors are using proton beams to provide more effective treatment for cancer.
And given that 1,762,450 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, there’s no time to waste.
Here are three key benefits of proton beam radiation therapy over traditional radiation treatments.
One of the biggest benefits of proton beam radiation therapy is precision.
Many traditional cancer treatments rely on X-rays, which are electromagnetic waves that gradually lose energy as they penetrate deeper into your tissue. To penetrate deeply enough to reach most tumors, higher doses of radiation must be used, but the strongest dose of radiation is deposited in healthy tissues in front of tumors.
Then, when X-rays exit the tumor, they continue to deposit radiation in healthy tissue on their way out of your body.
In other words, radiation does kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA, but it causes a lot of collateral damage in the meantime.
Protons are heavily charged particles that can be manipulated to release energy at a precise point, after which the radiation level falls to zero. Which means that radiation specialists can calibrate proton beam radiation to target tumors without wreaking havoc on the surrounding tissue.
2. Reduced Risk of Side Effects
Because proton beam radiation is far more precise than traditional radiation therapy, there’s a greatly reduced risk of side effects.
Since cancer cells are technically your own cells, doctors can’t develop medicines to attack them. It’s all you – so the medicine can’t attack foreign invaders. Instead, we have to rely on treatments like radiation to kill off cancerous cells before they kill you.
The problem, of course, is that radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA of cells, preventing cells from growing and dividing and causing them to die out. Radiation is equally harmful to healthy cells as it is to cancerous cells since it can’t differentiate between a tumor and regular tissue.
As such, the goal in most radiation treatment is to kill the cancer cells before the radiation can kill you first.
Side effects depend on the type of cancer and the treatment site, but the effect of killing your healthy tissue is detrimental nonetheless.
Proton beam radiation therapy reduces the risk of side effects because it doesn’t destroy healthy tissue as readily as traditional radiation treatment.
3. Reduced Risk of Secondary Cancer
In addition, because proton therapy is more precise, it also reduces your risk of secondary cancers.
Secondary cancers arise either when cancer spreads from a different part of the body or when a new type of cancer develops unrelated to the original cancer.
The irony of radiation therapy is that radiation is a known potential cause of cancer. In fact, much of what we know about the health effects of radiation therapy comes from studying survivors of atomic bomb blasts in Japan.
Since proton beam radiation therapy greatly reduces the harmful effects on healthy tissue, you have a much lower chance of developing secondary cancers later in life.
Given the benefits of proton beam radiation, it’s worth investigating it as a treatment option. Medicare generally covers proton beam therapy, though coverage varies between the insurance carrier and disease type. If you’re dealing with a proton beam insurance denial, get in touch with an attorney today.
Health Beyond Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
No one wants to imagine sitting down with their doctor to have that most dreaded conversation about potential cancer. But for those who do have that conversation, you do have treatment options available to you.
And with better treatments like proton beam radiation therapy, you have a better chance of beating cancer once and for all.
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