Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping patients with cancer overcome life-threatening challenges.
COMPLETING PT FOR RARE CANCER
When Tracy Clifford, 58-year-old, was diagnosed with chordoma, he had no idea of the 2,400 mile journey he’d be undertaking on his way to Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, for proton therapy.
Tracy was diagnosed with cancer after he visited his doctor for tailbone pain. An MRI showed abaseball-sized tumor on the base of his spine attached to his sacrum, and a subsequent biopsy confirmed he had a rare form of bone cancer called sacral chordoma. Tracy and his wife Karin immediately sought information and opinions. They learned that surgery was the most common treatment but can sometimes be tricky depending on the tumor location. “We were told that I should prepare myself for the loss of functionality below the waist – including bowel, bladder and sexual functions. Even with surgery, there was a high risk of recurrence. That’s when we began to research other options, such as radiation therapy,” Tracy recalls. The couple then met with a radiation oncologist, who explained that in cases where surgery is not an option or the outcome of surgery was unacceptable, people turn to definitive radiation therapy, which refers to curative radiation. Tracy and Karin wanted to gather as much information as possible before making a decision. “You have to understand, because this cancer is so rare, there is limited research available, and it seemed everyone I spoke with had a different opinion,” Tracy recalls. “I then determined, definitive radiation therapy was the way to go, and I liked what I heard about the advantages of proton beams precisely targeting the tumor and stopping, sparing nearby tissue from harmful radiation.” About 3 months after his cancer diagnosis, Tracy traveled to Royal Oak in late January to begin his proton treatments. On Tuesday, April 3, he completed his 9 weeks of treatment.
DAD OF TWO CLAIMING PT SAVED HIS LIFE
Eamon Jackson, a 64-year-old engineer from Ireland who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and flew 1,000 miles to Prague for proton therapy, claims the pioneering treatment saved his life as he is now cancer free.
Eamon, dad-of-two, was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine check up of his PSA levels, a test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen in the blood. “I had no other symptoms apart from my high PSA level, so the diagnosis did come as a shock,” he recalls. “There was nothing else to suggest I had cancer at all.” Eamon went against the advice of specialists in his country and decided to undergo proton therapy in the Czech Republic, as this type of treatment is not yet available in Ireland. “My doctor in Ireland advised me not to go for it. His attitude was to see what happened. I told him I was going to have it done,” he said. Eamon is among 3,500 Irish men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. He is now cancer free thanks to proton therapy.
CANCER SURVIVOR HELPING OTHERS
Jim Sundberg, a 66-year-old former Rangers catcher from Virginia, USA, has just finished a full year of battling prostate cancer, but once again has come out on the winning side and is now back to full-speed ahead.
Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2016 after his PSA level started elevating. “I had an MRI that showed suspicious tissue and they did a biopsy and there were some aggressive cells,” he recalls. “I spent 6 weeks trying to decide the right kind of procedure, went through the process and landed on doing proton beam”, which is a form of targeted radiation using a focused ray of proton particles to destroy cancerous tissues. “For me, this confirmed why I am a man of faith,” Jim said. “They were providing the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario turned out. And when I did my latest checkup, my doctor who has been doing this for over 25 years said he had never seen such good test results. So I’m very confident that it is gone. If it does return there are ways of treating that. This is the year of moving forward. I had time to rest and refresh and think about the next step.” Cancer does not appear to have slowed Jim down, the next step being a website that he and his wife are launching, called “Legacy matters”, with the objective to help people focus in and prioritize things in their life that matters most to them and others. After spending 35 years in baseball, Jim is ready for the next challenge, and prostate cancer will not be a part of it.