Proton Therapy Treatment for Breast Cancer
The breast cancer tumor usually occurs in the lobules and ducts of the breast, which are used in the production and delivery of breast milk. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women aside from skin cancer. Men are also susceptible to breast cancer, although the disease is rare among males.
As with other cancers, the best possible outcomes for breast cancer treatment come through early breast cancer care.Proton therapy has unique attributes that reduce radiation exposure to normal, healthy organs.1,2 This is especially important in left-sided breast cancer, as the cancer is close to critical organs such as the heart and the lungs.
1 MacDonald S, Specht M, Isakoff S, et al. Prospective pilot study of proton radiation therapy for invasive carcinoma of the breast following mastectomy in patients with unfavorable anatomy – first reported clinical experience. Int J Radiat Oncol. 2012;84(Suppl 3):S113-S114. Abstract 281
2 Moon SH, Shin KH, Kim TH, et al. Dosimetric comparison of four different external beam partial breast irradiation techniques: three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy, intensity-modulated radiotherapy, helical tomotherapy, and proton beam therapy. Radiother Oncol. 2009;90:66-73.
Symptoms of breast cancer can vary. Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain and may have no symptoms at all. Some breast cancers never cause symptoms or other indications of a problem. The most common symptoms include:
- A lump or mass in or near the breast
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
- Change in breast size, shape, skin texture or color
- Skin redness
- Nipple discharge, erosion, inversion or tenderness
- Dimpling or puckering
- Scaliness in touch
Physicians recommend several tests and procedures for breast cancer diagnoses. They may recommend one of the following procedures:
- Breast exam:A doctor examines both breasts to feel for any lumps or abnormalities.
- Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast is used to identify a breast lump.
- Breast ultrasound:Sound waves are used to produce images of structures deep within the body. Breast ultrasounds show whether the lump is solid or fluid-filled.
- Breast biopsy:A biopsy is used to remove a sample of breast cells to determine whether or not the cells are cancerous.
- Breast MRI:Magnetic and radio waves are used to produce images of the breast. An MRI helps better identify the breast lump or evaluate an abnormal change on a mammogram.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy:A procedure in which the sentinel lymph node is removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present. It is used to see if the cancer has spread to areas beyond the breast.
Proton therapy shows remarkable promise and advantages over conventional therapy in the treatment of breast cancer. Proton therapy is a type of radiation that stops at a very specific point in the targeted tissue; conventional radiation continues beyond the tumor. In breast cancer, this means on average no radiation to the heart and on average 50% less radiation to the lung as compared with conventional radiation.
Proton therapy is extremely precise and therefore more effective at targeting cancerous cells without causing damage to surrounding breast tissue. Proton therapy is not a substitute for a lumpectomy. Rather, it is used as an alternative to conventional radiation therapy. After surgery a breast cancer patient may receive 2-6 weeks of proton therapy. Proton therapy offers a number of other compelling benefits:
- Recent studies link increased risk of heart disease with left sided x-ray treatments
- Treatment is non-invasive and painless
- Proton therapy is effective for treating early stage breast cancer
- Treatment offers quicker recovery times with minimal side effects
- Causes less cosmetic damage compared with conventional radiation
- It is more precise than other forms of radiation
- Treatment is provided in an outpatient setting
- Proton radiation has little to no impact on patient’s energy level