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What is Proton 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.

The clinical advantages of proton therapy in contrast to conventional radiation therapy are huge, with more than 80,000 patients treated worldwide. Apollo Hospitals, always ahead in bringing such clinical innovations to the people of India , has planned, developed and equipped the Proton Therapy centre, providing the latest hi-tech equipments as well as excellent scientific and engineering expertise.

Proton Beam Therapy is one of the most superior forms of radiation therapy in the world. It uses high-energy proton beam for cancer treatment. It is a form of particle therapy that will usher in a paradigm change in cancer treatment. It provides targeted treatment and intensification unlike any other radiation treatment.

Conventional radiotherapy employs high energy X-Rays for the treatment of cancer and certain benign tumors. In doing so, it also damages the surrounding healthy tissue by delivery of radiation to the healthy tissue around the tumor. In contrast, proton beam delivers a high dosage of radiation only to the tumor maximizing the chances of cure and in turn minimizing the adverse effects to the surrounding healthy tissues.

In addition, a superlative advantage is the proper dose distribution. A low dosage of radiation is emanated at the body surface which is followed by a sharp burst once it hits the tumor, with negligible radiation travelling beyond the target.

Conventional radiation is highly penetrating and delivers a dose throughout any volume of tissue exposed to radiation. However, majority of the radiation is delivered only 0.5 to 3 cm from the patient’s skin, depending on the energy it was primarily given. It then slowly loses this energy until it reaches the target. As tumors are almost always located at a depth, conventional radiation actively interacts with outer healthy cells and transfers only a small remaining dose of ionizing radiation on the deeper diseased cells.

Conversely, the proton is a heavy and charged particle that in time loses its speed as it interacts with human tissue. It is easily controlled and delivers its utmost dose at an accurate depth, which is determined by the amount of energy it was given by the cyclotron (via acceleration), and reaches as far as 32 cm. The proton is very quick when it penetrates the patient’s body and deposits only a diminutive dose on its way. The absorbed dose increases very gradually with better depth and lower speed, rapidly rising to a peak when the proton is finally stopped. This is known as the Bragg peak. The behavior of the proton can be specifically determined and the beam can be directed so the Bragg peak occurs precisely within the tumor site. Instantaneously after this burst of energy, the proton completely stops to irradiate. Proton therapy aims to target tumors inside the body, accurately localize the radiation dosage and spare the patient’s healthy cells, presenting a much less invasive option to treat cancer.

Proton Beam Therapy has transformed the treatment of numerous cancers such as paediatric cancers, skull base tumors, brain tumors, breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer to name a few. It becomes a feasible option; mainly in cases where treatment options are limited and conventional radiotherapy projects a higher risk to patients. Proton beam therapy has to a greater extent, trounced the boundaries of conventional radiotherapy. It has the latent potential to treat more cancers with superior quality of life, throughout and after treatment.

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