Sexual Side Effects - Proton Therapy
Lately, people on Prostatecancer.net have been talking about and commenting on proton therapy. It was nice to see people having positive reactions to treatments and educating others on proton therapy. So, here is an article about some of the sexual side effects related to this treatment and other information I was able to find out about this form of therapy. Here we go.
What is proton therapy?
Please excuse my nerd moment here but you got to admit, this is cool! During proton therapy, a laser beam targets the cancer. As the protons move through the body, they release their energy to destroy cancer cells. Plus, there is something called the “Braggs Peak”. This is when the protons release their greatest amount of energy. The doctor can really target the cancer and use Braggs Peak to cause the most damage to the cancer while sparing the healthy cells only millimeters away. Granted, the protons are moving about 125,000 miles per hour or about 2/3 the speed of light (nerd moment over)!1
Additionally, it seems proton therapy delivers a lot less radiation to other body organs that are not targeted for treatment. This includes areas of the body like the bladder and the rectum. This in turn, leads to a lower rate of the cancer returning, especially in younger men.1
Anticipated side effects
While the doctors can control where the proton therapy releases its energy, some healthy parts of the body are still impacted. The side effects you may experience will depend on where you are receiving treatment. Some of the general side effects include1:
- Hair loss around the part of the body being treated
- Skin redness around the part of your body being treated
- Soreness around the part of your body being treated
A study from 2012 found that 90% of all men, in this study, and 94% of men with “high pretreatment” remained sexually active 2 years following the PT. Plus, urinary continence levels were high, with only a 4% decline over the same 2 year period, with only 2% of men requiring a pad, no diapers.2
The authors of this article note that using proton therapy was found to have good outcomes for erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, especially for men who are under 60 years old. These researchers mentioned limiting the amount of penile exposure to radiation.
One patient's proton therapy experience
I came across an interview with a gentleman (Joe) about his experience with proton therapy. Granted, he lives in the United Kingdom and had his treatment in Prague, Czech Republic. He says, “Now, after proton beam therapy, nothing has changed.” He continued, “I was the same after as before. I don't have any problems with incontinence or sex. My quality of life is as good as ever.” In the same interview, Dr. Jiri Kubes from the Proton Therapy Center in Prague said, “The most important thing for Joe was preserving his vitality after treatment.” Dr. Kubes ended by saying, “Men like Joe can make this a reality with proton therapy – an option that offers a high success rate as well as a low risk of side effects – and therefore a greater chance of preserving full quality of life after the conclusion on treatment.”3
To conclude, there are several locations in the United States that offer proton beam therapy. Many of the newer locations offer some form of the “pencil” therapy, that appeared around 2010. If this is something that interests you, be sure to talk to your doctor about this and discuss your options. Thank you.
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