Every doctor treating a patient with mesothelioma has the goal of not damaging healthy tissue or cells that surround the tumor. A specialized radiation-particle therapy knows as proton therapy significantly reduces the chances of destroying normal cells and tissue. High energy protons are sent through beams aimed directly at the cancerous growths. Protons rarely reach beyond the treatment area since they can only travel through several centimeters of tissue.
If a patient’s cancer has unfortunately broadened to other areas of the body, then proton therapy is not the right treatment since it is extremely site specific. Advance stage cancers that have already spread are better treated by chemotherapy. However, proton therapy is an effective method used by doctors when a mesothelioma patient’s cancer has not metastasized.
How Does Proton Therapy Work?
A unique aspect of proton therapy is that it is distributed externally and considered a non-invasive method of radiation treatment. The beams that hold the protons can be delivered steady or through movement. The scanning method allows oncologists to direct the beam to the necessary infected areas while avoiding nearby organs or other healthy tissue. Radiation therapists also have the option to adjust how the protons’ intensity. This option also assists doctors in protecting normal organs and tissue.
Proton therapy is a treatment that occurs in cycles. Such cycles can be administered in six to eight weeks. How long a patient will undergo this therapy will be determined by the dose required to treat and eliminate the cancer.
A benefit of proton therapy is that the procedure is painless and only takes about an hour or so to complete. Patients are able to speak with radiation therapists during the process by using a two-way intercom while remaining motionless as the dose of radiation is administered from a control room. Patients who receive this type of therapy are less likely to develop serious conditions such as pneumonitis, esophagitis, or bone marrow toxicity. The most common side effects reported include temporary hair loss and redness of the skin at the treatment site.
Proton Therapy Used on Mesothelioma
If a mesothelioma patient has stage I cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body, then proton therapy may be an option. Unfortunately, patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are many times at a stage where the cancer has indeed spread. Therefore, this therapy may not be a viable treatment method for those specific patients.
If a mesothelioma patient can move forward with proton therapy, then a combination or multimodal approach will be the treatment plan. Continuous radiation therapy and surgery treat mesothelioma most effectively.
Since the development of proton therapy in the 1950s, it has become the superior radiation therapy method used by doctors.