There is a significant difference between standard (x-ray) radiation treatment and proton therapy. If given in sufficient doses, x-ray radiation techniques will control many cancers. But, because of the physician’s inability to adequately conform the irradiation pattern to the cancer, healthy tissues may receive a similar dose and can be damaged. Consequently, a less- than-desired dose is frequently used to reduce damage to healthy tissues and avoid unwanted side effects. The power of protons is that higher doses of radiation can be used to control and manage cancer while significantly reducing damage to healthy tissue and vital organs.
Understanding how protons work provides patients and physicians with an insight into this mainstream treatment modality. Essentially, protons are a superior form of radiation therapy. Fundamentally, all tissues are made up of molecules with atoms as their building blocks. In the center of every atom is the nucleus. Orbiting the nucleus of the atom are negatively charged electrons.
Dr. Stegall’s Comments: In cases where radiation therapy is needed, we want to be as precise as possible. Modern technology allows us to better target the tumor(s), while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. I routinely recommend proton therapy when radiation therapy is indicated. While no treatment – conventional or alternative – is completely free of side effects, I do feel that proton therapy offers the best radiation option today.