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.
BRAVE GIRL RECEIVING CANCER TREATMENT IN USA
Emily Mather, a brave 4-year-old girl from Barrow in the UK battling a rare brain tumor, is currently in America for lifesaving proton therapy treatment to give her the best chance of recovery.
Emily is in Jacksonville, Florida, for life-saving proton beam cancer therapy which is not available in the UK until next year. The courageous youngster has been fighting ependymoma since January. She has already had chemotherapy and two delicate operations, which reduced the size of the tumor enough for her to be able to go to the US for treatment. The little fighter, her mom, dad and sister arrived in the States at the start of last week. Emily is set to have 12 weeks of treatment in the US and the family are praying for it to be successful. “Everyone is hopeful, we know there is a long way to go, but this is the best thing for Emily, our prayers were answered with her being able to go to America,” her parents said. “She is amazing and brave. You can’t believe a 4-year-old is teaching adults so much about living and enjoying life.” A bring and buy sale took place last Friday to support her family’s expenses during treatment.
HEAD AND NECK CANCER CURED WITH PT
Sylvia White, 58, was hit with the devastating news she had a tumor behind her nose in 2014. Head and neck cancers include cancers of the nose, mouth and throat and there are more than 10,000 cases diagnosed in the UK every year.
Back in 2014, Sylvia started having problems with her nose and her hearing, and had some swollen glands on her neck, but for the most part her symptoms were fairly minor and not that obvious. A biopsy finally showed she had a tumor 25mm wide at the back of her nose, very close to the brain and the eyes. A second biopsy showed Sylvia had nasopharyngeal cancer, an area particularly hard to reach surgically. To kill the cancer cells, the mom-of-one underwent 7 weeks of gruelling chemotherapy and image guided radiotherapy in April 2014. She was initially given the all-clear but tests in August last year showed the cancer had returned. On the advice of her doctors, Sylvia travelled to Prague in the Czech Republic for 9 weeks of proton therapy treatment, covered by her private health insurance. “We were given the option of having something with fewer side effects but effectively with the same outcome – she was going to be treated for a cure,” her husband said. “That’s why we chose proton beam therapy, even though at the time it meant 9 weeks away from friends and family.” Sylvia had 35 fractions from November until the first week of January. “I didn’t lose hair, I didn’t lose any weight. I could eat anything I wanted, all the time. In the UK I could hardly walk while I was having treatment. In Prague it wasn’t like that at all.” Sylvia’s latest tests have shown the cancer has disappeared. She now faces tests every four to six weeks for the next two years to monitor her progress.
FAMILY’S FUNDS PLEA TO TREAT BRAVE AARON
Aaron McMahon is a typical 16-year-old in many ways, but the teenager from East Cork in Ireland is undergoing treatment for a rare and aggressive type of tumor in his head.
When Aaron started complaining of frequent headaches a few years ago, he was initially diagnosed with vertigo and thyroid Osgood-Schlatter disease. As his headaches were getting worse, he was scheduled for an MRI, which revealed a pituitary-type tumor in his brain. A week later, he headed to Dublin for surgery. His parents could do nothing but wait from 8.45am to 5.30pm. “We knew the surgery was extremely risky because of where the tumor was,” his dad recalls. “His surgeon told us he was very lucky not to have suffered a stroke undergoing such a big operation. He said he got 80% of the tumor, which was more than he had expected to get.” A week later, it was confirmed that Aaron had a very rare type of aggressive cancer called chordoma. As there was no further treatment in Ireland for chordoma, Aaron was referred to a therapy clinic in Essen, Germany, where he is currently receiving pioneering proton therapy. Along with his parents, he has re-located to Essen for two months in the hope the remaining 20% of the tumor can be erased. His parents set up a gofundmepage called “Aaron’s Hope” to help them cover the costs of treatment and living abroad, and the response has been phenomenal. After the two months of radiation is carried out, Aaron will have to return after three months to see if it worked. He will have constant scans and visits to Germany for the rest of his life so fundraising is vital. The McMahon family also intend to bring their son to the Chordoma Foundation in the United States in 2018.