Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping cancer patients from all over the world face life-threatening challenges.
CANCER SURVIVOR ROBERT TRUJILLO
With his family history of cancer, Robert Trujillo didn’t hesitate to visit his doctor when he felt a lump on the right side of his jaw. He was ultimately diagnosed with squamous carcinoma in November 2016.
After not being able to locate the tumor, doctors had to perform an exploratory surgery and located the tumor under Robert’s tongue. The original treatment plan for Robert was to first remove his tonsils and then begin radiation. Yet, Robert remembered how his siblings were able to overcome their cancers with the help of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Once he consulted with doctors at MD Anderson, they explained that removing his tonsils at his age would not be wise. Instead they recommended proton therapy for his head and neck cancer, because it would precisely target the tumor while sparing nearby tissue such as the salivary glands. Also, patients with a head and neck cancer have fewer side effects such as loss of taste, dry mouth, fatigue or hair loss compared to traditional radiation. Coincidentally, Robert’s son worked at MD Anderson so relocating to Houston from Fort Worth wasn’t difficult. Robert arrived at the center in January 2017 where he completed a total of 33 treatments. With cancer behind him, the retired highway patrol employee is now back to enjoying life. “I have learned that material things don’t matter. It’s about enjoying life,” Robert said. “Life is sweet.”
EVIE’S JOURNEY TO AMERICA
Evie Hughes, a 6-year-old girl from Nefyn in North Wales, has been having proton therapy treatment at a Florida hospital since early April to treat a brain tumor.
Evie was diagnosed with a brain tumor after her teacher noticed something was wrong with her eyesight and her parents took her to the optician. To their horror they were told their daughter needed hospital treatment and doctors later found the issue was the result of a brain tumor, which left her permanently blind in one eye. Evie was rushed to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool last October, where she underwent emergency surgery. The initial surgery went well but medics said Evie would have to travel to Florida for additional proton therapy treatment. An online crowd-funding appeal was launched to help make the ordeal less stressful for the rest of the family. Evie’s mom said that American doctors were happy with the treatment Evie received in Florida, but won’t be able to say for certain if the proton therapy has been successful for another six months. “She’s due to visit Alder Hey next week for a check up and there will be regular visits for the next few months,” her mom said.
GOING AGAINST DOCTORS’ ADVICE
When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, 67-year-old Thomas Allison defied his doctors’ advice and flew to Prague for £30,000 proton beam therapy. He is glad he went with his guts, as he is now disease free.
The retired farmer, from South Lanarkshire in Scotland, was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 64. “It all started after a barbecue with some neighbours,” Thomas recalls. “I had a few beers and I needed to go for a wee but nothing was happening and it got really painful. So I went to A&E and by the time I got there I was screaming. Doctors told me there was a chance I had cancer and it was confirmed with a biopsy a few days later.” Thomas has already gone through years of hormone therapy but at this stage of the disease, doctor told him he would need radiotherapy. After reading about the potential side effects, Thomas searched the Internet for treatment alternatives and found out about proton therapy: “I’d done a lot of my own investigations on the Internet about different treatments for cancer and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have radiotherapy. Because of where the prostate is situated, close to the bladder and bowels, you can get a number of side effects and one is going to the toilet a lot, or even incontinence. I said I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on the toilet and I was looking at going for proton beam therapy. The doctor told me I didn’t need to do that and the conventional radiotherapy offered by the NHS was just as good.” But Thomas had made up his mind to try the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague. He stayed in Prague for over a month with his wife flying out at weekends to visit. It cost him £30,000 but he has no regrets as he has now been declared cancer free.