how to reduce radiation-induced heart disease

The Heart of the Matter: Proton Therapy Can Prevent Radiation-Induced Heart Disease

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Content and information provided by Rebecca Bergeron, RN, BSN, OCN Director of Clinical Services for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville

February is American Heart Month, and it is the perfect time to talk about preventing unnecessary radiation dose to the heart, often times causing radiation-induced heart disease. When people begin their fight against cancer, they are most likely not thinking about reducing their future risk of heart disease; however, this is certainly something we are thinking about at Provision CARES Proton Therapy.  (more…)

Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Lung Cancer

Reduce the risk of lung cancer with Mediterranean diet

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Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat impacts reduce risk of lung cancer

By Casey Coffey MS, RD, LDN

According to recent studies, benefits of polyunsaturated fats have been widely reviewed by looking at the relationship between dietary components of the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk, diabetes, cardiovascular events, and Alzheimer’s disease. Within these studies, the primary conclusion shows correlation between fat intake and risk associated with lung cancer.

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Protons offer promise for reirradiation

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For those with cancer who have already an initial course of radiation therapy, a recurrence of their disease can be an understandable cause for concern.

With conventional (X-ray) based radiation, we generally can only safely give one round of treatment to the primary site of disease. But with proton therapy, because of its ability to zero in on the cancer and spare healthy surrounding tissue, a second course of treatment could offer hope to patients with recurrent tumors. (more…)

Conventional radiation for lung cancer damages heart

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Note: This is the first in a monthly series of blogs that will be authored by Dr. Ben Wilkinson, radiation oncologist and medical director for Provision Center for Proton Therapy. Dr. Wilkinson will cover a variety of topics related to proton therapy treatment and cancer care.

For some years now, the damage conventional radiation can do to the hearts of breast cancer patients has been documented in the medical literature.

Now, we’re seeing the same effects in lung cancer patients. (more…)

Provision reaches 1000-patient milestone!

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The gong—three clangs that echo through the lobby, treatment rooms, work station cubicles. It’s startling for first-time visitors and new employees.

It quickly becomes the joyous reminder of why we’re here.

Today, the 1000th patient rang the graduation bell to applause of patients, former graduates, employees and supporters of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy. (more…)

Dosimetrists focus on finding perfect proton path

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Not too long ago, radiation prescribed for cancer treatment was calculated by physical measurement and mathematic formulas worked out by hand.

Now computers do much of that detail work, but the job of a dosimetrist is as important as ever in making sure patients receive the right dose of radiation in exactly the right place. And thanks to advancements in the field—the development of proton therapy and advanced application technologies such as pencil-beam scanning, sophisticated software modeling platforms and high tech imaging capabilities—patients receive precise, customized therapy that’s the best in the world.

Kevin Kirby is one of six dosimetrists who work at Provision Center for Proton Therapy. These experts in the delivery of radiation for treatment of cancer work with radiation oncologist and physicists to determine the best treatment plan and then ensure its successful delivery, says Kirby, who spoke recently at a patient chat, held each Wednesday at the proton therapy center. The talks provide information on a variety of topics of interest to patients and their families.

“Our job is to create (proton therapy) dosage that focuses just in the tumor,” Kirby says. “We figure out the best way to position the patient so we can minimize any radiation to excess tissue.”

With the pencil beam application ability, calculations must be made to determine the direction and length of path for the protons being channeled to the tumor. In some cases, treatment can be made challenging by the location of the tumor, on the lung, for instance, in which radiation must be administered while the patient is breathing.

“We are able to predict the motion of the lungs by using four-dimensional CT scans to develop the treatment plans,” he says.

A laundry list of equipment and programs are involved in coming up with the unique plan for each patient. In the case of the lung cancer patient, for example, a respiratory device helps plan for treatment between breaths. Medcam marries patient x-rays with CT scans to aid dosimetrists, physicians and physicists in creating the treatment protocol. A software package called “Matrix” serves as quality assurance for treatment before it starts, even sending protons into the nozzle through which they’ll be delivered to the patient. Treatment planning software serves as a “flight simulator, which also allows for changes in the treatment plan based on shifts inside a patients body during the course of therapy. Another program, Mosaiq, records the treatment itself, creating a unique therapy chart for every patient.

Among the team of caregivers, physicians prescribe and monitor treatment, physicists manage the entire process on both the equipment and treatment delivery side and therapists interact directly with patients who are receiving therapy. Dosimetrists, says Kirby, focus specifically on the way radiation—in this case, proton therapy—targets the cancer in the patient’s body.

“We take the prescription the doctor gives and determine how to deliver it,” he says.

Provision responds to Biden push for cancer cure

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Vice President Joe Biden’s recent commitment to lead a “moonshot” toward a cancer cure promises to deal a blow to the disease that has become the leading killer in the United States.

The initiative, kicked off last week, commits to bringing together a combination of therapies with “innovations in data and technology” to create treatment options that are ready for prime time—with the goal of making “a decade worth of advances in five years.”

Here at Provision, we couldn’t agree more. It’s something we work toward every day.

We believe the solution to a cancer cure is a combination of early detection along with both currently available and up-and-coming therapies that have the power to transform cancer treatment as we know it.

Here’s our view of a cancer-free future.

Ninety percent of cancer is treatable when detected early. If those at risk for a variety of cancers—particularly the big three: prostate, breast and lung—were screened appropriately, many of the cancer deaths we now mourn could be prevented.

For those who test positive for cancer, the healthcare system needs to, through research as well as financial support via insurance coverage, move toward treatments that kill the cancer but spare the patient and sustain quality of life.

Today, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in various measures and combinations are the typical recipe for cancer care. All three of these remedies carry their own risks, from that of infection and complications in surgery to the collateral damage of radiation to the harsh toll chemotherapy takes on the entire body. Truly, the cure can be worse than the disease.

Here’s our vision of the future:

First, conventional radiation and most surgery should be replaced by proton therapy. Proton therapy is a proven, FDA-approved treatment option for those diagnosed with localized cancer such as found in the prostate, breast or brain. This non-invasive treatment reduces the side effects caused by conventional radiation therapy and surgery. A growing number of proton therapy centers are making this world-class option available to patients across the globe. We support their research in developing the best treatment plans and clinically demonstrating proton therapy’s effectiveness.

Second, immunotherapy offers the promise of a future without chemotherapy. By using the body’s own disease-fighting system to eradicate cancer, it eliminates the toxic, debilitating side effects now experienced by chemo patients and better prevents spread of the disease. Research should be dedicated to bringing this unique treatment to everyday application for cancers that now require chemotherapy.

And serious, strategic investment should be made in cancer prevention by encouraging healthy lifestyle choice and reducing environmental risks.

As Biden has said, for too long research has been stuck in silos, focused on narrow investigative tracks and lacking a clear, comprehensive, thoughtful vision that could actually move the needle on cancer mortality. Treatment is too often dictated by the financial interest of the health care industry rather than public and personal health priorities. Patients are too often relegated into the role of bystanders rather than active participants in their care.

We rejoice in the government’s fresh approach to this growing crisis. We are encouraged by the vice president’s willingness to seek the best answers to a problem that has touched his life and ours. We believe the answer is within reach—and we want to be a part of the solution. As Provision’s own ice-skating, cancer-surviving spokesman Scott Hamilton so eloquently puts it: “We want to help turn cancer upside down!”