JUN 03, 2019 4:35 PM PDT

Proton therapy reduces risk of side effects

New research to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago this year by a radiation oncologist Dr. Brian C. Baumann highlights the benefits of proton therapy over x-ray radiation. While these two cancer treatments have relatively the same cure rates for cancer, Dr. Baumann’s findings suggest that the risk of severe side effects is much lower with proton therapy, while those patients undergoing x-ray radiation often experience many side effects, including fatigue, skin irritation, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as changes in appetite or difficulty eating and swallowing.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, doctors will have diagnosed 1,762,450 new cases of cancer, and 606,880 people will have died from the disease. While effective treatments like radiation are crucial for patients, quality of care is also an important aspect of deciding a treatment plan.

Proton therapy is also called proton beam therapy and works by firing photons at tumors in order to eradicate them. Watch the video below to get a better understanding of the technology behind this treatment.

In order to come to the conclusions of the study, Dr. Baumann and his team looked at 1,500 people with many different types of cancer. They analyzed the experiences of patients who received proton chemoradiotherapy compared to those of patients who received x-ray chemoradiotherapy.

"Proton therapy was associated with a substantial reduction in the rates of severe, acute side effects — those that cause unplanned hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room — compared with conventional photon, or X-ray, radiation for patients treated with concurrent radiation and chemotherapy,” said Dr. Brian Baumann.

The substantial reduction that Dr. Baumann mentions is indeed significant: people who received proton therapy had a relative risk of severe side effects within 90 treatment days two-thirds lower than patients who received X-ray radiation.

This research could have great potential for helping patients and their practitioners make tough decisions regarding cancer treatment options.

New research suggests proton therapy could greatly reduce the risk of side effects. Photo: MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

Sources: Medical News Today, ASCO

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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