Radiation Oncology’s New Answer to Lung Cancer Treatment: Advances in Proton Therapy

Radiation treatment saves lives, but it also has many side effects. A new form of proton therapy could reduce those side effects in cases of lung cancer, say researchers.

The stakes could scarcely be higher. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer affecting both men and women. While doctors don’t often find the disease in younger individuals (the average diagnosis age is 70), lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. Both smokers and non-smokers can develop lung cancer, but if the disease is caught early enough, it can be successfully treated.

The most common treatments for lung cancer involve surgery, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and radiation. Radiation is the best treatment option when the patient doesn’t want, or is unable to undergo, surgery. It’s most often paired with chemotherapy treatments, and while each person will experience different reactions and side effects, radiation treatments can be very effective.

Explaining Proton Therapy and its Advantages

Doctors and their patients should discuss potential side effects when weighing any treatment option. Patients undergoing radiation treatment for lung cancer often have nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Radiation treatment to the chest area can also damage the lungs and esophagus, causing breathing problems, sore throat, or a difficulty breathing. Most of these symptoms go away once treatment is finished—but not always.

Luckily, a new development in radiation treatment was recently presented by the Beaumont Health’s proton therapy team at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) Conference. This new approach to proton therapy will minimize negative effects of respiration-induced motion during treatment, as well as lessen radiation exposure to surrounding organs.

Proton therapy works by using a particle accelerator to create positively charged atomic particles. This beam of particles travels through a system to a gantry (the treatment device), that terminates in a targeted nozzle that keeps the stream of radiation contained to the therapeutic area.

This proton radiation beam is much more precise compared to earlier radiation treatments. With the use of 3-D computed tomography, these proton therapy beams can target a tumor down to a fraction of a millimeter.

The new form of this treatment uses Pencil Beam Scanning (PBS), which is a different approach compared to other radiation options. During PBS, the proton beam moves back and forth over the targeted area, while the machine tracks the size, shape, and depth of a tumor. The beam only targets the designated area, which it treats layer by layer, with no excess radiation traveling through the rest of the body.

Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer for Better Health Outcomes

Proton therapy is currently not effective against all cancers, but hopefully with time, that will change. Of course, there is one way to improve the effectiveness of any lung cancer treatment. Regardless of treatment modality, it is crucial to detect lung cancer as early as possible. If your doctor orders diagnostic imaging to accomplish this goal, make an appointment with BestPriceMRI.com by calling 888-322-7785 today.