Answers to your questions about proton therapy radiation

Radiation therapy is one treatment option for prostate cancer that has been available for decades. It was in 1913 when doctors implanted radium directly into the prostate. Then, in 1962, doctors began using megavoltage radiation for treating prostate cancer confined to the prostate gland, and that had not spread. By 1997, radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy had become standard for treating men with large or more aggressive prostate tumors. 

Today, the latest advancement in radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer is proton therapy. This cutting-edge radiation takes advantage of using proton beams instead of photon beams. 

If your medical professional has recommended proton therapy for treating prostate cancer, you likely have many questions. Below are answers to possible questions you have helping to ease any concerns about this therapy:

What is the purpose of proton therapy radiation for prostate cancer?

Proton therapy is a treatment used for cancerous and noncancerous tumors. It can be used alone or with other treatments such as chemotherapy and/or surgery. If traditional X-ray radiation fails to treat cancer or if it reappears, proton therapy may be used as an alternative.

Proton therapy is extremely advanced and enables accurate targeting of tumors without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. Proton therapy employs a beam of protons to direct radiation directly to the cancerous cells, leading to fewer adverse reactions and an improved quality of life for patients.

Men who choose proton therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer, based on their medical team’s advice, can experience several advantages. One of the significant benefits is that with the use of proton therapy, doctors can target the prostate tumors more precisely and deliver a higher dose of radiation directly to the cancer cells, causing minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

Proton radiation therapy uses advanced technology that allows the beam to shape and target the tumor with high precision, while minimizing damage to healthy tissues and organs nearby. This therapy also offers other benefits, such as:

  • Minimal impact on surrounding organs, such as bladder and rectum, reduces incidence of bladder or rectal cancer.
  • Patients can receive treatment on an outpatient basis, which is more comfortable and convenient than a hospital setting.
  • After treatment, the risk of impotence is minimal.
  • Patients undergoing proton therapy treatment will feel well enough to work.
  • During the treatment, it is safe for patients to enjoy physical exercise and maintain an active sexual life.

Will I feel pain during proton therapy radiation?

During proton therapy, patients do not experience any pain. However, some patients may need to be positioned in uncomfortable ways to ensure that the beam is aimed at the right angle. This may be particularly challenging for patients with physical limitations. Nevertheless, the therapy itself is painless and requires no downtime. 

How long does each session last?

Proton therapy sessions last from 15 to 20 minutes. However, expect an additional 30 to 45 minutes for preparation. Each session will require roughly an hour of your time at the center.

Is there preparation work needed before I begin proton therapy radiation?

Before your proton therapy treatments can begin, an important determination made by your healthcare team will be to determine the best position for you when you come for each treatment. It’s crucial that you remain still, so they’ll find a comfortable position for you on a treatment table. Imaging tests will be conducted to determine the area of your body to be treated and how best to target it with proton beams. The radiation area will be marked making sure that at each treatment, your body is in the same precise position each and every time. 

What can I expect during each treatment?

Once you are positioned correctly, the radiation therapy team will leave the room and monitor your progress from a dedicated area. The team will still be available to help you if you need any assistance. Proton therapy is precisely administered using a gantry, which directs the proton beams to targeted points on your body. While the machine delivers the dose of proton therapy, you will hear it turn on, but you will not feel any radiation. The treatment is designed to be safe and painless, and the radiation therapy team will ensure that you receive the best care possible.

How frequently are proton therapies scheduled?

A typical proton therapy schedule consists of treatment five days a week for up to eight consecutive weeks or longer depending on each individual patient’s circumstances. 

How is my progress determined?

Throughout your treatment process, your progress will be monitored closely by your healthcare team. They will conduct weekly CT scans to assess the changes in the tumor size and shape. Based on the results, they will adjust the dose to ensure that you receive the most effective treatment.

After each treatment, how will I feel physically?

After your proton therapy session, you can confidently carry on with your usual routine without any worries of being radioactive or emitting radiation. It is important to note that while some side effects may occur over time, such as fatigue and skin redness in the treatment area, they are manageable. By taking the time to rest and prioritize self-care, you can help mitigate any discomfort while making progress towards your health goals.

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911. 


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