Chennai: As a commonly used form of cancer treatment, radiation has a fundamental problem — the need to deliver a lethal dose of radiation to the cancer increases the risk of other tissues being exposed to the radiation, which, according to research, has been found to be very harmful.
Therefore, using other forms of treatment to help in cancer care has been found very essential. Though the proton beam radiation therapy is not new to the world of cancer care, it was almost unheard of in South East Asia.
With Apollo Hospitals preparing to inaugurate its centre soon, creating awareness on this form of treatment was found to be important. Work on the centre is expected to be completed by next year.
Explaining the concept, Dr Ramesh Rengan, Medical Director, University of Washington School of Medicine, said, “The use of radiation is to heat up the tumor. X-rays work standard heat such as does a cup of boiling hot coffee — the closer your hand gets to it, the warmer the hand feels. How-ever, proton beam therapy works like a microwave oven - the crust of whatever is put in, may not become very hot, but the inside will be boiling hot as it specifically heats up that central core.”
“Protons, when it penetrates through, do not heat up the surface. It penetrates to the point we want and we can heat up the tumor by minimizing how much we heat up the tissue in front, unlike in X-rays, in which the part closest to the X-ray beam becomes the hottest,” he added.
Having been used in the treatment of cancer for the first time in the United States in the 1950s, this form of therapy could only generate a proton beam in big national laboratories, which was very expensive. In 1990, however, when the technology evolved, it could be attached to hospitals as well.
“It is a very important time to bring protons to the rest of the world as the burden of cancer is on the rise everywhere. However, it will take time for the public to trust and adapt to this now form of treatment. Though more beneficial, one must ask the question if it will benefit the patient in question as not all cancer patients would benefit from it,” added the doctor....