Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is offering better quality of life than traditional treatments, and more options to patients battling cancer.
SCHOOLGIRL BATTLING BRAIN TUMOR SINCE A BABY
Amber Whiston, a brave 7-year-old schoolgirl from Sheffield, UK who has been battling a brain tumor since she was a baby, will fly to the US for proton therapy thanks to generous donations topping nearly £8,000 in one week.
Amber was diagnosed when she was only 7 months old, after her parents noticed something wasn’t right in her left eye. Through this long battle, they have experienced highs and lows, but sadly in December 2016, they were told Amber’s tumor had grown considerably and several cysts had developed causing further problems. On top of hundreds of chemotherapy sessions she has already undergone since she was a baby, Amber had to spend 9 hours on the operating table 3 weeks ago so surgeons could relieve the pressure on her brain. The next step is now specialist proton radiotherapy in the US. Despite her illness, Amber attends Mundella Primary School in Norton Lees while fitting in all the hospital treatments. “I’ve never known anyone so tough, she’s an inspiration,” her mom Lara said. “She’s got an attendance record of about 65% which is incredible.” The NHS have paid for the treatment and accommodation for Amber’s parents but the money raised will mean Amber’s younger brother will be able to join them along with living costs, so that the family can stay together. Lara admitted that setting up the fundraising page was a difficult thing to do, but in just 8 days, friends family, and even complete strangers pitched in. “The fundraising page has left me completely speechless. There’s so much bad things going on in the world and this experience has really restored my faith in humanity,” Lara said.
LONDON MAN FIRST TO RECEIVE PT AT CINCINNATI
Troy Witt, a 65-year-old man from London who underwent proton treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumor just 10 months ago, is one of the first patients treated at the newly established proton therapy clinic in Cincinnati, USA.
It all began last spring when Troy noticed some things out of the ordinary. “My eyes were watering a lot so I thought I’d go to the eye doctor and see if I needed glasses or if something was wrong,” he said. After a few tests, doctors found an orange-sized mass behind his eyes. Troy underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but he still needed radiotherapy to destroy the remaining cancerous cells. Due to the positioning of the tumor, however, the radiation usually offered for cancer patients was precarious. It was then that Troy was referred to the University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where he learned about proton therapy, the newest cancer treatment available. “I had daily treatments for 7 weeks,” he said. “I stayed with my daughter in northern Kentucky. They said the side effects would be skin irritation and a 50% chance of losing my eyesight or memory. The only side effect I had was some sores in my nose.” Troy has had no memory loss and was watched closely afterwards for seizures or strokes, none of which he has experienced. Now back at home, Troy is looking forward to enjoying his “country boy” lifestyle: riding on his tractor, planting a garden this spring, playing with his dog and spending time with Brenda, his wife of 50 years.
PROTON THERAPY FOR BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE
Joe Tuftnell, a 72-year-old retiree from the UK who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 years ago, chose traditional treatment for revolutionary proton beam therapy to avoid ruining his quality of life and sexual health.
When Joe, father of two and grandfather of three, was diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 years ago, he wasn’t afraid of the potentially life-threatening discovery. However, he was concerned about losing his independence, with warnings that he could live with incontinence and erectile dysfunction after undergoing treatment. “I’m fiercely independent,” Joe said. “I didn’t want to have to suffer from incontinence or erectile problems, and I didn’t want to have to compromise the intimacy I share with my wife. And I was just incredibly lucky. I was actually visiting Prague at the time. I’d gone into a bar to get some lunch. I was on my own, looking at a newspaper, and I saw an article about the Proton Therapy Center. It was the first I’d heard about it.” Joe eventually underwent treatment in June 2013 – choosing to pay around £20,000 for private proton therapy at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic. “Now, after proton beam therapy, nothing has changed. I am the same after as before. I don’t have any problems with incontinence or sex. My quality of life is as good as ever.” While the NHS can pay for the therapy to be carried out abroad, Joe says that many patients are simply not aware that it even exists. Therefore, he is now aiming to raise awareness for the therapy, which is not routinely carried out in the UK.