Protons Successfully Treat Thousands of Cancer Patients

If you had cancer and could be treated with a potentially life-saving treatment without ever undergoing the surgeon's knife, wouldn't you go for it?

A medical tool is available for treating the thousands of people diagnosed with cancer each year without the well-known side effects of conventional surgery or traditional radiation treatment.

The Proton Center at Loma Linda University in Southern California uses high-energy proton particles to deliver a beam of energy with surgical precision to a specified spot in the body. The 400 tons of electromagnetic equipment, which aims the proton beam, is three stories high and cost $85 million to build.

Loma Linda University was the first to offer the treatment eight years ago. Since that time, almost 5000 patients have benefitted. Side effects typically associated with conventional radiation therapy are virtually eliminated because the beam is focused so precisely.

This form of therapy is often called "bloodless surgery" because it leaves vital organs and healthy tissue near the tumor unaffected. Proton therapy is painless and has been found to be useful in treating a variety of conditions.

In the early years of proton therapy development the beam was not movable, so its use was confined to brain tumors. But when Loma Linda invented movable beams, the therapy could then be used on many different cancer sites, such as the prostate, or on tumors in the head, neck, chest, and abdomen.

Unique Treatment Option

Clinical applications of proton therapy have been available for decades, but the cost of building a hospital-based proton center has limited their availability. The proton treatment center at Loma Linda University is currently the only one of its kind in the United States, but new clinical-based treatment centers in other cities are planned. Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston expects to open a proton facility early next year.

Proton therapy is used in more than 20 cancer sites and is also used to treat other diseases. Loma Linda's proton center was approved by the FDA in 1987 and treatment is covered by Medicare and nearly 200 insurance plans.

The Proton Center at LLUMC will be able to treat lung and breast cancer with proton therapy within the next couple of years.

As we enter the new millennium, proton therapy is fast becoming the superior form of cancer treatment and successfully treating thousands of cancer patients each year. More information is available by calling 1-800-PROTONS (1-800-776-8667). Additional information can also be obtained from the LLUMC web site, .

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