Proton therapy center in Seattle brings hope

The first treatment center of its kind in the Northwest has just opened in Seattle. Until now, cancer patients in the Seattle area like Pat Purcell had to travel 1,000 miles for proton therapy.

In 2011, Pat Purcell, 50, got a phone call from his doctor with the results of a biopsy of his prostate. He considered several treatment options, including robotic surgery and various forms of radiation, but his doctors told him that with proton therapy, his life expectancy would be unbelievably good.

Purcell was sold. That was a crucial consideration for him, worried about side effects. But the closest proton therapy center back then was in southern California. That, said Purcell, was the only down side.

Purcell thinks it’s probably the best decision he ever made : “I’m just like I was before and I’m not having to deal with incontinence, impotence, rectal bleeding and all the potential side effects from other modalities”.

Now, proton therapy is also available in the northwest. Eighty-thousand people have received proton therapy and the new center on the campus of Northwest Hospital treated its first patient this month. It’s an expensive therapy, but it’s generally covered by insurance. The Seattle proton therapy facility is just the eleventh of its kind in the United States.

“Proton therapy is amazing and it’s going to impact health care in the Pacific Northwest like nothing else,” predicted Purcell.