Proton Therapy: What’s the Catch? – Part 2

Bobby was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020. He talks about his path to getting diagnosed and undergoing proton therapy for treatment. Read Part 1.

Catching prostate cancer early

My first decision was to scratch active surveillance from the list. After all, why bother screening for cancer for so long, if I am not going to actively treat it when I find it?

I was very fortunate. My screening paid off. I found the cancer early, and I learned that it was slow-growing. The younger you are, the better you may be able to tolerate treatment, so let’s do something about this...but what?

I kept the appointment with the radiation oncologist and surgeon. At this point I had heard of proton therapy, but did not know much about it. I asked the photon guy about proton and immediately got a strong negative sell. He was actually a great guy, very knowledgeable and compassionate.

Considering treatment options

I left thinking EBRT, with all the new enhancements, is probably what I am going to do. Lesson learned – don’t make any snap decisions when it comes to the treatment you choose. Medical professionals are not only very good physicians, they are also very good salesmen.

The surgeon might have even been a better salesman. My father had a radical prostatectomy at age 70, and dealt with negative side effects for the rest of his life. “That’s not for me!” I thought, and surgery was always at the bottom of my list, given my father’s experience. That said, I left the consultation with the surgeon thinking that I need to completely reconsider my opinion on surgery!

My path to proton therapy

At this point I had a conversation with a very good family friend and cancer survivor (not prostate). "I am joining you, Steve, I just got diagnosed with prostate cancer," I said. Immediately he said, “Have you heard of proton therapy? You absolutely need to check it out." He gave me the number of one of his friends who had it done for prostate cancer and had raved about it.

That’s how it all started. I talked to his friend, then to a friend of his friend, both people I had never met. They were both extremely gracious and forthcoming with their knowledge and experiences with proton. They referred me to the “protonbob” website and the book that “proton” Bob Marckini had written.

After spending time on the website, and reading the book, I was completely hooked. Then I learned that another friend's brother-in-law had proton therapy for bladder cancer. The common thread – all were delighted with their results, and none had side effects!

Comparing the technologies

Bob Marckini founded “the brotherhood of the balloon,” a group of over 10,000 men who have treated prostate cancer with proton therapy, and many of whom have had great results. Bob’s cancer was diagnosed in 2000 and he was treated, coincidentally also at age 57 like me, and he is still going strong.

The success rates of proton therapy tend to be high, particularly for those with low-to-medium-risk prostate cancer, though it can also be successful for those with more high-risk cases.1

When you compare photon and proton technologies, photon radiation uses photon beams to reach the tumor but can also damage surrounding tissue in the process.2 Too much radiation to tissues surrounding the prostate, and you may experience side effects. Alternately, a highly accelerated beam of protons is less likely to damage surrounding tissue, and the goal is to release the energy at the target.3

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