Proton Beam Therapy Blog and Information
Welcome to my blog about proton therapy, prostate cancer, and related lifestyle issues. You will find the blog posts here. First, a quick introduction to the technology that is revolutionizing cancer treatment.
What's So Special About Protons?
Proton beam therapy is the treatment of the future due to its accuracy and minimal affect on healthy tissues. For men who are concerned about incontinence or impotence as the result of prostate cancer, proton therapy is the answer. It is effective for 80% of all cancers, of which prostate cancer is a rather easy and accessible type. The recurrence rate is extremely low, in many cases 2% or less.
I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "I love protons." I suspect most people would be puzzled. Some ask, "What's a proton?" Others wonder why I would be enamored with an atomic particle. The key to proton beam therapy is the difference in the characterisitcs and behavior of electrons and protons.
Hydrogen is the most common and stable element in the universe. Hydrogen atoms contain one proton in the center nucleus (positively charged) and one electron in orbit (negatively charged). X-rays are electromagnetic energy often expressed as discrete packets called photons. The words can be a little confusing between x-rays (pHotons) and particles (pRotons)—one letter difference. Both are categorized as radiation therapy.
Because they have mass, charged particles like protons have a unique quality which is the basis of their use for medical purposes and that distinguishes them from the better known and more widespread techmology, x-rays.
X-rays enter the body, hit the target, and then keep going, out the other side. Thus, they have both entrance and exit exposure to healthy tissues. Protons don’t keep going, like x-rays. Rather, and most importantly, they go a certain distance, depending on their speed, energy, and the medium in which they are traveling, and then release almost all of their energy in a final burst, after which they no longer exist. As a result, there’s no exit dose through the body, as with x-rays, and the entrance dose is quite low. My logo in the header is a proton beam delivering its energy (red area).
This amazing characteristic of protons was discovered at the University of Adelaide in Australia a century ago by William Bragg. Hence, it's called the Bragg's Peak. When the energy release is graphed, the final burst causes a high spike, that looks like a peak. Hence, the name. Some call it Bragg peak, while others (like me) say Bragg's peak, prefering the possessive form, as it refers to a real person.
Virtually all explanations of proton therapy show the above graph, comparing the energy of x-rays to that of protons. Treatment actually consists of many Bragg's peaks grouped together (called the spread-out Bragg's peak, or SOBP). The equipment used to produce and direct the protons (cyclotron, vacuum beam line, gantry, superconducting magnets, scanning methods) are all highly technical and unfamiliar to the average cancer patient (or the person on the street, for that matter). You don't need to undertand protons in order to benefit from them. But I'm the kind of curious person who wants to know the "why" as well at the "what." For that reason, I cover the technology in some detail in my book, Best Prostate Cancer Treatment: Proton Beam Therapy (see cover photo and links in the sidebar).
When protons are used to treat cancer, through the use of magnets the charged particles are organized into a controlable beam, hence proton beam therapy. However, since that's the intrinsic nature of how it works, the word "beam" is rather redundant, and most peope just refer to proton therapy. It will, indeed, have a beam. I included "beam" in my book title for the sake of search engines, not because I felt it was crucial.
Consider some of the other factors involved with protons. The cost to build a proton facility has historically ranged from one hundred million dollars to twice that, although advances in miniaturization are bringing the cost down. The medical aspects of controlling the protons, determining the appropriate dose, and designing patient procedures would have been impossible before the days of computers. They are incredibly sophisticated. The gantry (pictured below) looks impressive from the front, and even more so behind the scene. It might seem scary to picture yourself lying on that table, but it's worth it.
I determined to my satisfaction that proton beam therapy was the best treatment for my prostate cancer, better than surgery, than x-ray radiation, or various focal treatments. I spent two enjoyable months being treated at Provision Center for Proton Therapy in Knoxville, Tennesse, the stereotypical "radiation vacation."
Now wait a minute. Am I exagerating? "Enjoyable months." Really? I thought cancer treatments were harsh and miserable. True, they often are, but much less so with protons. That's one of the main attractions. In fact, I feel almost guilty in telling my story because my treatment was so easy and noninvasive, when many others didn't have the same good fortune. The positive nature of my experience is what has turned me into a "proton ambassador," spreading the word about this technology.
Protons are noninvasive (except for the cancer, of course) and painless. The treatment took less than half an hour of my day, leaving the rest as free time. Many patients play golf every day, others go to work as usual.
Various details and considerations about the treatment, the experience, the technology, and the industry itself are (and will be) covered in this blog.
If you or someone you know is considering treatment for prostate cancer, or any kind of cancer, you will definitely want to read my book and visit this blog regularly. Better yet, sign up to be notified when our newsletters and special blogs are posted (see sidebar).
To see Best Prostate Cancer Treatment: Proton Beam Therapy, on Amazon, click here (not a buy button) Amazon.com. For more information about the book, click here for a dedicated website: www.ProtonTherapyBook.com.
My name is Robert Ferré. Here I am on September 8, 2016, arriving for my first of thirty-nine treatments for prostate cancer with proton beam therapy. So taken am I with the efficacy of this technology that I wrote a book about it and started three websites on which I will have a continuing flow of information.
To receive notice of my newsletters and related posts (once a month at most, I won't harass you or share your email anywhere), please sign up below.
To order the book, here's a link to Amazon.com
The website for the book is here (photos, more details):
My website that has a complete list of proton therapy centers in the United States is here:
This book isn't my first memoir. I wrote a book about the cruise industry and my wife's and my love story, entitled:
During my twenty year career as a labyrinth builder, I wrote a number of books on that subject. You can find them on Amazon.