Proton Therapy: Reducing Complication Of Radiation Therapy

Over six lakh individuals die of cancer every year in India and more than half of them are in the age group of 30-70 years. Today, Proton therapy is used to treat many cancers and is mainly appropriate in situations where treatment options are restricted or conventional radiotherapy poses a peril to the patient.

Proton therapy is similar to radiation therapy, but it offers a more targeted approach. This means that the risk of damaging tissues around the tumor is lower than with standard radiation.

The treatment is considered suitable for some specific cancers that involve tumors near important parts of the body, such as the eye, brain, and spinal cord. With traditional radiation therapy, such tumors cannot be targeted because of the risk of damage to vital surrounding tissue (nerves).

Proton therapy may also be used to treat cancers that affect:
• The central nervous system (CNS)
• The eyes
• The head and neck
• The lungs, liver, or prostate gland
• The soft tissues of the spine and pelvis, known as sarcoma
• Non-cancerous brain tumors

The main difference between protons and X-rays are the physical properties of the proton beam itself. Protons are large particles with a positive charge that penetrate matter (in this case, tissue) to a limited depth, based on the energy of the beam, and deposit most of their energy at the end of the beam. X-rays are electromagnetic waves that have no mass or charge and are able to penetrate completely through tissue while losing some energy along the way. In turn, x-rays enter the patient on one side of the body and travel straight through, exiting out the other side, with the radiation dose gradually decreasing as it travels through the tissues. In order to decrease the amount of radiation healthy tissues receive, the beam is given from several different angles, allowing the dose to accumulate in the intended target, but be far less to surrounding healthy tissues.

• Targets tumors and cancer cells with precision and minimal exit dose
• Reduces overall toxicity
• Reduces the probability and/or severity of short- and long-term side effects on surrounding healthy tissues and organs (e.g. reduces likelihood of secondary tumors caused by treatment)
• Precisely delivers an optimal radiation dose to the tumor
• Can be used to treat recurrent tumors, even in patients who have already received radiation
• Improves quality of life during and after treatment
• Increases the long-term, progression-free survival rates for certain types of tumors

South Asia’s first proton therapy centre was launched in Chennai on 25 January 2019. Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, equipped with the path-breaking pencil beam technology, offers hope to cancer patients from India and abroad. The centre was inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in the presence Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Apollo Hospitals Group chairman Dr Prathap C. Reddy.

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