When a newly diagnosed cancer patient is considering treatment options, proton
therapy might not be the first course that comes to mind. Yet over
the past two decades proton therapy has continued to evolve as a viable
alternative to chemotherapy and a less-invasive procedure than radiation
or surgery, so much so that proton therapy is now considered the
preferred course of treatment for many doctors and patients in the fight
First developed for treating prostate,
lung and brain tumors, today's proton therapy technology also is
being used to successfully treat breast cancer and head and neck cancers
as well as having a particularly strong track record in treating
"Continuing research findings coupled with advancements in technology
and improved outcomes over the past quarter century has resulted in
expanding proton therapy's applications to the point where it is now
highly successful for many types of cancer," said Jerry D. Slater, M.D.,
chairman of the Loma Linda University Medical Center's (LLUMC) Proton
Treatment & Research Center. LLUMC was the world's first and continues
to be the leading hospital-based Proton Treatment Center for cancer.
Due to the expense and complexities of establishing a Proton Treatment
Center, currently there are only eight such centers in the United
States, which, according to Dr. Slater, vary greatly. "There are many
differences between proton
treatment centers, and potential patients should do their research
before choosing where to receive treatment," says Slater.
With that in mind, LLUMC suggests that patients and their loved ones to
begin their due diligence with a strategic "check list" containing the
six key attributes that can contribute toward making their proton
therapy treatment successful. Those attributes include:
Experience is Key - Potential patients should ensure that the
proton treatment center they choose has extensive experience treating a
variety of conditions. In healthcare experience counts and history shows
that the more experience a facility and team of clinicians has treating
a certain condition, the better the clinical outcomes. Don't gamble on a
new program that can't show a track record of success.
State-of-the-Art Technology - Not all proton treatment centers
have the same technology, and that can make a huge difference. Potential
patients need to know what type of technology is best applied for their
specific condition and then seek out a facility where such technology is
housed. For example, when treating breast cancer and certain types of
pediatric tumors, a robotic positioning arm as part of the proton
treatment gantry is the most effective as it can isolate the treatment
to the precise area where the tumor is located.
Leading-Edge Research - Look for a center whose physicians are
continually furthering their knowledge and staying up to date about the
latest techniques and best practices when it comes to proton therapy.
Patients benefit greatly from physicians who are involved in ongoing
research in their field and who actively participate in research studies
and clinical trials.
Find a Hospital-Based Center - Just because a proton treatment
center is located adjacent to a hospital, that doesn't make it hospital
owned. A hospital-owned proton treatment center typically charges less
for treatment than those run by entrepreneurs while having all of the
support services (nutritionists, physical therapists, etc.) right on
site to address all of a patient's needs. And should other healthcare
requirements emerge during the course of treatment, the patient has the
comfort and security of knowing that they can be well taken care of
without having to go anywhere else.
Treating the Whole Person, Not Just Their Disease - Proton
therapy is highly effective in targeting and successfully treating many
forms of cancer. But beyond its clinical attributes, the best proton
therapy centers are those whose clinicians not only effectively treat
the disease, but who consider the entire person as well. Look for a
center that offers support groups for patients to socialize with each
other and other compassionate programs that help to ensure the patient's
mind and spirit are tended to, in addition to their disease.
Satisfied Patients - When seeking a proton treatment facility,
potential patients should contact the center they are considering and
ask about the success ratio of the patients who have been treated. "We
encourage incoming patients to contact us, and we will gladly connect
them with former patients who have been treated for the same condition,"
Dr. Slater said. "We find that by speaking with former patients, new
patients develop a peace of mind about their upcoming treatment program
because they know what to expect; and they know that they made the right
Loma Linda University Medical Center