Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping patients from all over the world in their fight against cancer.
CANCER SURVIVOR ADVOCATING FOR PT
Barry Hodge, a 72-year-old cancer survivor from Minehead in England, is starring in a new campaign to highlight the benefits of proton therapy.
Barry was devastated to be told he had prostate cancer just after turning 70. One in eight UK men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives, making it the most common male cancer with 11,000 men dying each year from the disease. Doctors told the retired dad-of-one he would need to undergo external photon radiotherapy and hormone therapy in a bid to tackle the disease. But faced with a long list of side effects from the treatment including incontinence and bowel problems, he decided to travel to try pioneering proton therapy instead. “I was concerned about the damage traditional radiotherapy could do to my internal organs.” The treatment is not currently available in the UK, meaning Barry felt he had no choice but to look abroad. “My son Robert started investigating proton therapy,” Barry said. “He found that America and certain other countries, including Prague, had great success rates.” Barry travelled to the Czech Republic and proceeded undergoing 21 sessions in Prague over a month with his family by his side. After four weeks his doctors told him the tumor had gone. Barry covered the cost of his treatment – around £30,000 privately. He is now cancer-free and says the Proton Therapy Center in Prague ‘saved him’.
SECOND HOME FOR AUSTRALIAN PATIENT
Emma Cappel, a woman from Australia suffering from a rare form of cancer on her skull called chondrosarcoma, travelled halfway around the world for treatment in Maryland as National Cancer Survivors Day was celebrated last Sunday.
It wasn’t even a year ago, back in her home country of Australia, when Emma realized something was wrong, as she started losing hearing in one ear and her eyes wouldn’t focus. Doctors ultimately found rare bone tumor based in her skull called chondrosarcoma. She started doing her own research on this rare diagnosis, which brought her to the Maryland Proton Treatment Center in Baltimore for proton therapy. “For my particular kind of cancer, you only get one shot at radiation, the body remembers it. Because I had done my research, I learned that proton treatment was really the only way to go,” she said. Emma’s doctor at the proton therapy center said this new form of treatment may very well be the medical breakthrough many patients need mainly because of its precision: “As cancer patients are living longer, there are risks of getting side effects from the treatment, so proton therapy may be one more tool in our cancer fighting tool shed that can help our patients reduce their side effects from treatment.” Emma needs 35 fractions of proton treatment and she’s now halfway through. The end of the journey will be bittersweet for her: “I’m halfway there, and it’s bitter sweet. I don’t want to finish, I love the place, this is my home, Baltimore, I know where I am at, and the same time I have lots of people waiting for me”.
CELEBRATING LIFE THANKS TO PT
Brad Eastman was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 31 years old. He received proton therapy treatment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and is now an advocate for the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access. Here is his story.
“At first glance, you would never suspect that I am a brain cancer survivor. I am young, energetic and, seemingly, the picture of health. But looks can be deceiving. Despite being in peak physical shape, I received the shocking news that I had a tumor approximately the size of a baseball in my brain. I was just 31 years old. Just a month after my diagnosis, I emerged from a successful surgery that strategically removed 95% of the tumor and returned home after a short hospital stay. A year later, a quarterly scan revealed that the remaining 5% of the tumor left in my brain during surgery had begun to grow. My case was sent to a panel of experts who decided proton therapy was the best course of action to defeat this cancer once and for all. My cancer marathon, bolstered by a remarkable care team, brain surgery and proton therapy, had a happy ending. And along the way, I was fortunate not to encounter obstacles or barriers to the treatment plan my expert care team recommended. Unfortunately, that is not case for many people fighting cancer, especially patients like me seeking proton therapy. My hope as a survivor is that when cancer patients are recommended proton therapy by their medical team, their insurer meets them with a timely and clear process for approving treatment. My story — and access to the treatment that was key to winning my race to beat brain cancer — should be the rule, not the exception.”