Monday, January 5, 2009

The Proton Advantage In a Nutshell Moreorless

Healthy cells tolerate the destructive force of radiation better than cancer cells. Therein lies the effectiveness of radiation for treating cancer. One characteristic of a proton beam is known as the Bragg Peak. As described in an article by James Metz M.D. "...the absorbed dose of a proton beam increases very gradually with increasing depth and then suddenly rises to a peak at the end of the proton range." The energy level beyond the Bragg Peak is relatively negligible. Another important characteristic of a proton beam is it can be manipulated to deliver optimal levels of energy to precise locations within the target area. In layman's terms cancer cells can be nullified with pinpoint accuracy. By way of contrast an xray beam, the more common form of radiation, tends to deliver equal amounts of energy from the entry level through the target volume to the point of exit. These differences in radiation characteristics translate into less collateral damage from proton beam radiation. Herein lies the proton advantage.

I have no reason to doubt the validity of the above information. It is derived from a variety of presumably reliable sources. I feel obligated to mention, however, many well-intentioned, highly trained professional experts would disagree with the above-stated point of view. The reader may recall Dr. Tuflov who had recently attended a national symposium of radiation specialists who concluded clinical evidence does not support superiority of proton treatment over other forms of external beam radiation either in terms of long term outcomes or adverse side effects. It is the lack of unaminity among the experts that has made my journey all the more tumultuous.

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