Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping young cancer patients overcome their disease.
POSITIVE MOJO AND PT TO FIGHT BRAIN TUMOR
Dean Hardin, a 7-year-old boy from St. Clair Shores who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in late July, became Beaumont Health’s first pediatric proton therapy patient on September 14th.
The second-grader’s life changed overnight. In late July, Dean and his father Jeff were effortlessly throwing a football back and forth in the backyard, but within days, Dean began experiencing debilitating headaches that wouldn’t go away. A week later, an emergency room doctor diagnosed him with a brain tumor and he was rushed to the operating room to remove most of the tumor on Aug. 3. Since then, he has had difficulty managing the left side of his body, but each day he gets a little better and his parents are encouraged by his progress. He is currently in the midst of a 6-week proton therapy treatment plan schedule. Despite all this, Dean still has contagious smile and eyes. “This is what I have to do to get better,” he said matter-of-factly, following one of his first treatments. “When we learned about the benefits of proton therapy from several different sources, we knew this is where we wanted Dean to get treatment,” said his mom Kristie. “So far so good,” said Jeff. “We are focusing on the positive and taking one day at a time.” Proton therapy offers less exposure to radiation and fewer side effects, and also reduces the risk of future malignancies, especially relevant in treating childhood cancer. “Like Dean, we won’t settle for anything less than the best technology, in treating our most vulnerable patients,” his doctor said.
PROSTATE CANCER SURVIVOR
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and for men, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer. Proton therapy has been able to successfully treat many men with prostate cancer, like John Rick Giardino from Texas.
John was recommended surgery and traditional radiation to treat his prostate tumor, but he decided to visit the medical library at the Texas A&M University Medical School and search for other forms of treatment. After reading approximately 95 medical articles, he decided proton therapy would be the best form of treatment that could precisely target his tumor while sparing nearby tissue such as the bladder and rectum. Proton therapy is also less invasive than surgery and offers fewer side effects than traditional radiation. Rick began treatment in March 2016 and completed a total of 40 treatments. During his time at the treatment center, he started befriending the patients he saw daily in the waiting area. “I saw guys really down so I decided to make posters inviting everyone to dinner,” he recalls. By having dinner, enjoying food and each other’s company, Rick felt it would help boost everyone’s spirits. He continued to faithfully arrange weekly dinners for his fellow patients and by the third dinner he had approximately 40 patients and their family members attending the dinner. Rick is thankful for all the wonderful staff he met at the center: “They find the most compassionate people to hire. Everyone went out of their way to help us,” Rick said. “Their attitudes made you feel like you were their #1 concern.”
ALESSANDRA, RHABDOMYOSARCOMA SURVIVOR
Alessandra Alvarado, a 10-year-old brave girl who was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma when she was just 5, has been able to overcome her condition with proton therapy treatment.
In June 2012, Alessandra showed symptoms similar to facial palsy. Her doctor diagnosed her with Bell’s palsy, but after several weeks of no improvement, her parents sought a second opinion and doctors found a rare form of cancer in her middle ear called rhabdomyosarcoma. Her parents knew the importance of finding the best possible treatment for her due to the tumor’s location and began doing thorough researching. Soon after, Alessandra was scheduled for an appointment at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and learned about the benefits of proton therapy. In her case, proton therapy was able to help spare her ear, jaw, eyes and most importantly her brain. She arrived at the center in late July of 2012 and received a total of 28 treatments in conjunction with chemotherapy. Now 11 years old, Alessandra continues doing the things she loves in life thanks to proton therapy. Her advice for others beginning or undergoing treatment, “Even if you are nervous, everyone is here to help you and everything is going to be ok. Stay confident,” she said. Alessandra is now in 6th grade and aspires to become a professor.