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Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Radiotherapy is often used as the primary treatment for low-grade cancer that has not spread outside the prostate gland, or has spread only to nearby tissue. It can also be utilized if the cancer was not completely removed or recurs after surgery. Progression-free survival for men treated with radiation is comparable to men who undergo surgery. If the cancer is more advanced, radiation is often used to shrink the tumor and provide relief from symptoms. This article is dedicated to a discussion of Proton Therapy which represents the most advanced type of radiation available today.

Unlike high-energy X-rays, proton beams deposit almost all of their energy on their target, with a low amount of radiation deposited in tissues from the surface of the skin to the front of the tumor. Also, there is virtually no impact on tissue beyond the tumor. This attribute allows doctors to bombard tumors with higher, more effective doses of radiation than would be possible with gamma radiation.
Although proton therapy is considered the most advanced form of radiation therapy available, size and cost have limited itsuse to only a handful of cancer centers. The promise of Proton Surgery, as it's sometimes called, lies in its ability to destroy cancerous cells while sparing nearby healthy cells. This characteristic greatly reduces potential side effects. It also allows doctors to increase the amount of radiation, theoretically improving cure rates.
One important study of Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer, published in the June 1, 2004, issue of the International Journal of Radiation and Oncology, looked at 1,255 men who had been treated for localized prostate cancer in the 1990s at the Loma Linda University Medical Center's Proton Treatment Center. The study concluded that treatment with proton radiation yielded disease-free survival rates comparable to those of surgery or conventional radiation, but with a reduction in side effects, such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
Proton radiation therapy is currently available at the following locations:
Proton Treatment and Research Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center – located in California east of Los Angeles
Francis H. Burr Proton Center at Mass. General Hospital – in Boston, Mass.
Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute at Indiana University - in Bloomington, Indiana
The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute – Jacksonville, Florida
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's Proton Center - Houston, Texas
Proton Centers are under construction at the following locations:
Proton Therapy Center at University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Pa. Scheduled to open in 2009
Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute –near Norfolk and Williamsburg, Virginia - Scheduled to open in 2010
Northern Illinois University Proton Therapy Center - 35 miles west of Chicago - Scheduled to open in 2010
ProCure Proton Therapy Center, Oklahoma City, located at the INTEGRIS Cancer Campus - Scheduled to open in 2009
As radiation treatment proceeds, it may cause patients to become tired. Resting is important, however doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can. Studies have suggested that exercise helps to reduce fatigue and improves quality of life during radiation therapy. While Proton Therapy results in a lower frequency of side effects, all radiation has the potential to cause some of the following problems.
1) Frequent urination, burning while passing urine.
2) During and after treatment you may develop diarrhea, rectal leakage, and an irritated large intestine. Most of these problems go away over time.
3) Difficulty controlling your urine or problems with leaking. Although this side effect is less common than after surgery, the possibility of incontinence increases each year for several years after treatment.
4) Sexual dysfunction

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