Proton beam therapy is a medical procedure, a type of particle therapy that uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue. Proton therapy’s chief advantage over other types of external beam radiotherapy is that it can more precisely localize the radiation dose.
In conventional X-ray radiation treatments the photons pass through all body tissues on their way to the affected area effecting surrounding to it tissues too. Proton beam therapy, however, benefits from a physical property called a Bragg peak which enables protons to be delivered directly to the site of the tumor without affecting the tissues around it. This makes the proton beam therapy more accurate in its target and able to destroy the tumor “pixel by pixel” without destroying surrounding tissues close to critical organs and body structures, especially in children and young adults.
Countries like the United States, Switzerland, and the Netherlands that embrace proton beam therapy use it to treat malignancies found in the brain, the central nervous system, the head and neck, and non-small cell lung cancer. Other areas suitable for proton beam therapy include cancers of the breast, liver, pancreas, cervical area, prostate, soft tissue sarcomas, and specific pediatric applications, including brain tumor.
Historically, proton therapy has been expensive. The relative cost of proton therapy is approximately 2.4 times that of x-ray therapies. However, newer, more compact proton beam sources can be four to five times cheaper and offer more accurate three-dimensional targeting. Thus the cost is expected to reduce as better proton technology becomes more widely available.
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