2019 Cancer Guide

A safer, more targeted way to fight cancer

Learn why experts deem proton therapy a revolutionary new technique for fighting cancer

By Beaumont Proton Therapy Center
Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center is a 10,000-square-foot facility.

One of the most exciting new developments in cancer treatment sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. Proton beam therapy stars positively-charged hydrogen atom nuclei (protons). During treatment, protons get accelerated and beamed in a thin line at cancerous cells hiding deep within the body. The protons kill tumor cells with fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments.

The pros of proton therapy

Since the technique involves a thin beam of these nuclei, it is generally more precise than conventional X-ray radiation. The protons stop within the tumor, so there is no “exit dose” of radiation. This allows physicians to kill the tumor with fewer side effects.

“According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, proton therapy may deliver up to 60 percent less radiation to healthy tissue around the target site, while delivering a higher dose to the tumor itself,” explains Medical News Today. Essentially, doctors can target the problematic cells more efficiently.

“Side effects of radiation therapy can be serious. Proton therapy often spares healthy cells better than we do with X-rays. We’ve seen many patients have fewer side effects both during and after proton therapy treatment,” Dr. Craig Stevens, Beaumont Chair of Radiation Oncology, said. 

Ideal cases for proton therapy

Proton therapy is ideal for cancers near sensitive parts of the body, such as the lungs, head and neck, esophagus, breast and brain.

The method is also well-suited toward irregularly-shaped tumors, since proton therapy adapts to various tumor shapes. The beams can be customized to hit the insides of tumors, regardless of their shape.

Patients with recurrent cancers can often undergo proton therapy to have tumors re-treated, an option not always available with conventional radiation therapy.

“If you’re wondering if proton therapy could help you, our experts can answer questions you or your family have,” Stevens said. “We can also provide a comprehensive consultation and then design a customized treatment plan for you.”

Where to find treatment

Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center in Royal Oak, Michigan, is the first operational proton therapy center in the state. The 10,000-square-foot facility offers Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT), which combines Pencil Beam Scanning and 3-D Cone Beam CT.

As a result, Beaumont’s proton therapy specialists scan tumors spot-by-spot and layer-by-layer, targeting cancerous cells within less than a millimeter.

To learn more about this technique described as “safer and more effective than conventional radiation therapy” by Medical News Today, call 248-551-8402, and speak with a proton nurse navigator.