Travelling the world to have access to proton therapy

In the ever-changing world of health care, the practice of “medical tourism” — traveling across international borders to undergo a medical procedure — is growing.

The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI) in Jacksonville, Florida, has its own “stateside” medical tourism initiative, reaching out to consumers in Florida and the southeastern United States to promote the advantages of proton therapy to treat cancer and what UFPTI has to offer.

However, the inquiries that UFPTI receives regarding proton therapy come from far beyond the United States. “Since the beginning of operations in 2006, we’ve received nearly 40 inquiries from 21 countries, among them France, Germany, Austria, China, India, Greece and Italy,” says Stuart Klein, UFPTI’s Executive Director. The majority of requests for information come from closer to home — mostly the Southeast — with about 40%coming from other parts of the country. About 67% of the inquiries received by UFPTI request information regarding treatment of prostate cancer, followed by head and neck cancers (7%) and brain/central nervous system cancers (5%).

Though UFPTI treats patients from both within and outside the United States, its main mission is to provide the best-quality patient care, says Klein. “Another objective of our mission is to serve as a center for multidisciplinary research, involving all aspects of cancer treatment and radiation effects as well as clinical and basic science disciplines,” Klein adds.

UFPTI is one of five proton therapy centers in the United States (there are approximately 22 proton therapy centers worldwide) and, because of its location, it can be the closest center for many potential patients, offering savings in terms of travel costs. Since a proton therapy regimen can take approximately eight weeks to complete, it’s important for patients to be as comfortable as possible while away from home and family. “To help our out-of-town patients during their stay, we have negotiated discount rates on various types of housing and with restaurants,” says Klein. UFPTI works to both ensure the comfort of its patients and to offer them excellent clinical care.