Proton therapy is a precise treatment for prostate cancer that delivers high doses of radiation directly to tumors. The treatment’s accuracy works to eliminate cancerous cells while minimizing exposure to non-targeted, healthy tissue near the prostate. As a result, men get the benefit of extremely precise tumor targeting with a lower risk for potential side effects.
- High-energy, precisely-targeted proton beams can deliver high doses of radiation to destroy cancerous cells, reducing recurrence rates for many cancer cases.
- Proton therapy is non-invasive and may reduce side effects.
- Patients treated with proton therapy may have increased tolerance for chemotherapy.
- Patients can maintain their current quality of life during and after treatment.
- It is sometimes used effectively to treat areas that have already been treated with radiation.
Proton Therapy Candidates
Proton therapy can treat tumors in sensitive areas of the body, often with less exposure to normal tissue than conventional therapy. In many cases, it is an ideal treatment option for prostate cancer patients if their cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Proton therapy can also treat more extensive targets, such as the pelvic lymph nodes, while minimizing exposure to the bladder and bowel. Patients who receive proton therapy for prostate cancer may also experience fewer side effects than those receiving standard radiation therapy.
Proton Therapy vs. Conventional X-Ray Therapy
Red: High Radiation Dose
Green: Intermediate Radiation Dose
Blue: Low Radiation Dose
Most prostate cancer begins in the gland cells in the prostate. Known as a silent killer because men often do not have symptoms in early stages, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer other than skin cancer among men in the United States and is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among men. If prostate cancer is detected early and before the cancer spreads, patients have a nearly 100 percent chance of survival after five years. Survival rates have increased for all stages of prostate cancer since the 1990s.
Prostate Cancer Statistics
- One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
- One in 41 men will die from the disease, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in men.
- In 2018, 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, with 29,430 deaths.
- In Texas, an estimated 13,936 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2018, and 2,029 men will die from the disease.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
- Age: Men age 65 and older account for about 60 percent of all prostate cancer cases diagnosed.
- Family History: Men with close relatives (father or brother) who have had prostate cancer are more than twice as likely to develop the disease.
- Race: African Americans have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the United States and are twice as likely to die from the disease as Caucasians.
- Genetic Factors: A gene mutation on BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 or having Lynch syndrome may denote an increased risk, but it is only a small percentage of cases.
- Diet: Men who consume high amounts of red meat or high-fat dairy products and few fruits and vegetables have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
The following may be symptoms of prostate cancer but could be linked to other health conditions. If these symptoms are present, men are encouraged to consult their physician for proper testing:
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Difficulty controlling urination
- Painful or burning urination
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in spine, hips, ribs, upper thighs, and other bones
- Painful ejaculation
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty having an erection
- Weakness or numbness in legs or feet
Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
Prostate cancer may be treated by different members of the cancer care team. Treatment options vary depending on how advanced the cancer is and if it has spread to other body parts. Physicians will determine the most appropriate treatment for each patient, including surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, proton therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, vaccine treatment, bone-directed treatment, and cryotherapy.
Sources: American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology, National Cancer Institute, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and Texas Cancer Registry