The Benefits of Proton Irradiation in the Treatment of Recurrence or Second Primary Cancer

Publication: AARP The Magazine

February 01, 2024

Cancer is a complex disease that can sometimes reappear, even after treatment, or give rise to new primary tumors. When facing recurrence or development of a second primary cancer, patients and their care team seek innovative approaches to treatment. Proton therapy, a form of radiation therapy, is gaining prominence as an effective and promising option in such cases.

What is proton therapy?

Proton therapy offers unique advantages in the treatment of cancer. Unlike traditional radiation therapy, proton therapy involves targeted proton beams that can deliver precise, high doses of radiation, that “paint” tumors layer by layer, to destroy cancerous cells.

The versatility of proton therapy makes it a valuable tool for patients facing the challenge of recurrent or second primary cancers and extends to a wide range of cancer types, including cancers of the brain, head and neck, lung, and breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and gynecologic cancers.

Advantages of proton therapy for cancer recurrence or second primary cancer

One of the most significant benefits of proton therapy is its precision. High-energy, precisely-targeted proton beams, which are only a few millimeters wide, deliver radiation at a specific depth within the body to destroy cancerous cells.

This precision allows for selective targeting of tumors while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. This is especially important when dealing with recurrent or second primary cancers, where the affected area may be close to or overlapping previously treated regions.

Repeated radiation to the same area can damage normal or healthy tissues, which may limit further treatment options. Because proton therapy has the ability to spare healthy tissue, it can be used as a targeted therapy for recurrent tumors that have already been treated with radiation.

Additionally, the use of proton treatment for recurrent cancer may reduce side effects and lower the risk of long-term side effects, helping patients maintain their quality of life during and after treatment.

Proton therapy has emerged as a promising option in the treatment of recurrent or second primary cancers. Its precision, ability to deliver higher radiation doses while sparing healthy tissue, and reduced side effects make it a valuable tool to provide effective treatment while preserving the quality of life for patients.

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This advertorial originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of AARP The Magazine.