Today is World Cancer Day (http://www.worldcancerday.org/ ). World Cancer Day is a chance to raise our collective voices in the name of improving general knowledge around cancer and dismissing misconceptions about the disease. This year’s edition has been placed under the tagline “Debunk the myths”. Let us do our share of the work and debunk 3 of the numerous myths about Proton Therapy.
#1: Proton therapy is not a good option for children with cancer
The Pediatric Proton Foundation and the National Association for Proton Therapy published in October 2013, the results of a survey on the use of proton therapy to treat pediatric cancer cases in the USA. They reported that the number of kids treated with proton therapy increased by 33% between 2010 and 2012, reaching 694 patients in the USA alone.
“Parents need to understand that proton therapy offers distinct advantages for their child’s treatment over traditional radiation,” said Susan Ralston, Executive Director of the PPF. “As the mother of a young child who was diagnosed with spinal Ewing sarcoma and was able to receive proton therapy, my goal is to help other families by ensuring that they get good information about the options for their children.”Source: http://www.pediatricprotonfoundation.org/news/2012-pediatric-proton-survey-results
Myth #2: Proton therapy is significantly more expensive than conventional radiation treatments.
The very active proton therapy advocate ProtonBOB answers this question on the website of the Brotherhood of the Balloon:
- Proton therapy today costs a few thousand dollars more … initially.
- Following treatment, most proton patients require zero follow-up medical attention for side effects and, complications. This follow-up medical treatment after conventional radiation and surgery often costs thousands of dollars in doctor/hospital bills, medical procedures, diapers, catheters, E.D. medications, and other costs. Often this increases total cost to levels much higher than proton therapy.
- You can’t put a price tag on quality of life after treatment, maintaining urine control and sexual function.
- The chance of secondary cancers from IMRT are double that of proton. Secondary cancers cause severe quality of life problems and cost tens of thousands of dollars to treat.
- Hypo-fractionation clinical trials currently underway will dramatically reduce the initial cost of proton treatment in the not-too-distant future.
- So, is proton therapy for prostate cancer significantly more expensive than IMRT? Absolutely not! Initial cost may be higher, but total cost is similar or maybe even lower. And, in the near future, even the initial cost will be comparable to IMRT.
#3 Proton Therapy is not suitable for lung cancer treatment?
Charles B. Simone, II, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine, responds on Oncolink: “Proton radiation therapy is a relatively newly utilized type of radiation therapy that has the potential to decrease the radiation dose to normal tissues that are next to the tumor. Currently, there are only 10 centers in the United States that offer proton radiation therapy. Because the tumor continuously moves as a patient breathes during radiation therapy, tumor movement must be accounted for when treating with any kind of radiation therapy. With proton radiation therapy, however, accounting for this movement is technically more difficult. Several proton centers have begun to treat lung cancer with proton therapy, and this can allow for lower doses of irradiation to normal tissues, with potentially fewer side effects, and better local control. Proton therapy may also more safely allow radiation therapy to be combined with chemotherapy and/or surgery for patients who would most benefit from multi-modality therapy. Not all insurances cover proton therapy, but many do if it is shown in your specific case to deliver a better radiation plan than conventional radiation therapy. Please contact your insurance company or ask your healthcare provider for more details on your insurance coverage.”