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Proton therapy, also known as proton beam therapy, is a
typical radiation treatment done with the help of
protons instead of x-ray, for treating cancer.
A proton is typically a positively charged particle, which
is also a part of atom, the main unit of various chemical
elements, like oxygen or hydrogen. At extremely high
energy, protons can easily destroy or kill cancer cells.
Proton therapy is known for its use in cancer
treatment. It was used for the first time in 1974 in
the United States of America. Later in 1990, the
pioneering U.S hospital-based proton facility started
Thereafter, tens of thousands of cancer patients in
USA have received different types of proton
therapy. However, the number of American cancer
centers offering specialized proton therapy and
treatment is small although growing in number.
Proton Therapy Is Different From
Radiation – How?
Like a standard x-ray
radiation, proton therapy is a
specific external beam
radiation therapy. It delivers
radiation painlessly through
the skin from a machine that
is placed outside the body.
However, protons target the
tumor with low radiation
doses to the adjoining normal
tissues approximately 60
percent lower, which depends
on the tumor location.
Traditional radiation therapies tend to damage the tissues
surrounding the tumor. With proton therapy, however, the
energy of protons hit the site of tumor, thus delivering
smaller doses of the treatment to the healthy tissues.
With standard methods of treatment, doctors need to
decrease the dose of radiation to limit the side effects caused
as a result of damage to the healthy tissues.
With proton therapy for treatment, on the contrary, doctors
can choose an appropriate dose, knowing that there is a high
possibility of fewer early as well as late side effects of this
radiation on healthy tissues.
Proton therapy reaches a
specific site of patient’s
body, which makes it
efficient to shrink tumors
that haven’t spread to other
It is quite useful in the
treatment of tumor lying
next to the critically
important tissues like optic
nerves traveling between the
brain and eye that required
protection from the
Doctors use proton therapy all alone, or in
combination with standard surgery, radiation therapy
Proton therapy is specifically useful in treating cancer
in young ones because it reduces the risk of harming
healthy and developing tissues. Children may also
receive proton therapy for some of the rarest cancers
affecting the spinal cord and brain (central nervous
system) and the eye, like orbital rhabdomyosarcoma
In addition, there are other forms of cancers that
benefit from proton therapy, such as:
Cancers of the central nervous system –
chondrosarcoma, malignant meningioma, and
Cancer of the eye – chorodial melanoma and uveal
Cancers of the neck and head – nasal cavity cancer,
nasopharyngeal cancer and paranasal cancer
Pelvic and spinal sarcomas
There are some noncancerous tumors affecting the
brain that may also be helped with the use of proton
therapy for treatment.