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.
RACE AGAINST TIME FOR DESPERATE MOM
Sheena Schyma, a young mom from London who was diagnosed with a rare form of nose cancer, is seeking pioneering proton therapy in a desperate race against time to save her own life.
Sheena was diagnosed with stage III nasopharynx cancer in September after spending four months battling to find a reason behind sudden problems with her hearing. After a number of scans and biopsies, doctors recommended she undergo concurrent chemotherapy with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). But the 32-year-old became concerned that IMRT could leave her with long-lasting problems and a list of side effects. She started researching her options with her husband Chris regardless of what was standard protocol in the UK, and came across proton beam therapy, which is not yet available in their country. Unfortunately, the NHS will not fund Sheena’s treatment and it is not covered under her health insurance, as proton therapy is not currently part of the UK’s treatment guidelines for her type of cancer. Chris said: “Proton therapy will not create a better opportunity to cure the cancer. IMRT and proton therapy offer exactly the same success rates. But what we’re looking at here is long term quality of life.” Chris has established a JustGiving page which has already raised £20,000 towards the goal of £37,500, so Sheena can begin treatment at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic. But there’s still a long way to go. “There’s a real burden on the patient to muddle through the process, which takes a long time. We are taking a pragmatic approach and just try to keep solving problems, but getting over the target shouldn’t be underestimated.”
ENERGETIC FIGHT AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Kimberly Kraus is an energetic woman who holds a fast-paced job managing a restaurant, and when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, proton therapy helped keep her on her feet through treatment.
Kimberly’s grandmother and two aunts had already suffered from breast cancer, so she started annual mammograms early. At age 39, her mammogram showed a possibility of breast cancer, which was confirmed by a biopsy. Her doctor recommended six weeks of radiation in addition to lumpectomy or mastectomy. Kimberly was sent to the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center on the Provision campus. After a multidisciplinary consultation, her doctors, including pathologists, oncologists, surgeons and radiation therapists, determined that traditional radiation could affect her lungs due to the placement of her tumor, giving her a higher chance of developing cancer later in life. “What can happen is potential long-term radiation damage to the left side of the chest, including a higher incidence of heart disease and lung cancer, which is why proton therapy is advantageous for younger women. The benefit is that we get the same benefit for the breast, and we reduce by a considerable margin the damage to the heart and lung,” her doctors said. Kimberly found herself surprised at how proton therapy enabled her to keep up with her busy life. “It was amazing. I had minimal side effects and was able to keep the same work schedule,” she said.
AIRFORCE MEDIC WITH LYMPHOMA
When Teresa Monteon, a medic from the Air Force base in California, heard her doctor say she had stage 2 unfavorable Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2015, the weight of those word hit her hard and she cried.
In August 2015, Teresa discovered a lump on the left side of her neck that changed everything. After a CT scan, she was scheduled for a biopsy, which revealed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. This form of cancer causes cells to grow abnormally, which could lead to cancerous cells spreading to other parts of the body. As the disease progresses, it compromises the body’s ability to fight infection. Tests revealed cancerous tumors on the left side of her neck and chest above her heart. She began 4 months of chemotherapy on October 26, 2015. The treatments took a profound effect on her, both physically and mentally. An avid runner and hiker prior to her diagnosis, she shared what it felt like not being able to do the things she loved. When Teresa was through with chemo, she underwent a month of proton therapy in San Diego. On April 25, 2016, her oncologist told her she was in remission. While she is aware cancer could return to her body, she is wasting no time living the life she loves. She said her cancer battle taught her a valuable life lesson, one she wants to share with her fellow Airmen: “The biggest take away for me is knowing there’s going to be adversity and challenges in life, but what matters is getting yourself back up,” she said. “Whatever challenge you’re facing, it’s likely for a very short period in your life and there’s so much out there to experience.”