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Proton Therapy in New Jersey

Medical Providers Looking At Brain ImagingProton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles to shrink and kill cancerous and noncancerous tumors. It is an effective way to attack tumors while protecting healthy tissue from radiation exposure. Proton therapy is one of the treatment options offered by Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics. 

The compassionate and award-winning neurosurgeons at CNSO serve patients with all forms of brain tumors, spine tumors, and nerve tumors at six comprehensive care centers throughout Northern New Jersey. Patients with benign or malignant tumors may be best treated using proton therapy.

How Proton Therapy Works Compared to Traditional Radiation Treatment

Proton therapy uses an accelerator to increase the speed of protons (positively charged subatomic particles) to 60% of the speed of light. This type of treatment can offer extremely precise targeting of abnormal tissue while minimizing the exposure of normal healthy tissue to radiation. Traditional radiation treatment uses photons (high energy electromagnetic radiation) which is focused on the tumor yet continues passing through healthy tissue on the other side of the tumor. This is called the exit dose of radiation. With proton therapy, there is no exit dose because the energy of the proton beam is deposited in only the tumor itself. This precision allows doctors to deliver a high dose of radiation while minimizing side effects.

This level of precision can be extremely important when dealing with brain tumors that grow close to delicate and critical structures of the brain. The brainstem, spinal cord, optic nerves which control vision, and the auditory nerve critical for hearing are examples of extremely important structures for normal function that are sensitive to radiation. For example, if a tumor is located in the part of the brain that controls hearing, traditional radiation can damage a patient’s brain tissue and cause hearing problems. Because of the precision of proton therapy, it is a particularly useful alternative treatment for patients with tumors located in the head, neck, and some nerves.

The doctors at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics take the time to understand each patient’s specific diagnosis and medical history. A patient may be a candidate for proton therapy if they have been diagnosed with a:

  • Benign brain tumor, a noncancerous abnormal cell growth that may negatively impact brain function
  • Chordoma, a slow-growing malignant tumor that can occur anywhere along the skull base or spine
  • Malignant meningioma, a common tumor that develops on the thin layer of tissue called the meninges that covers the brain and spine
  • Spinal sarcoma, a malignant tumor that can develop in the spinal bones, discs, or cartilage

Proton therapy is still a relatively new technology, and CNSO is pleased to be able to offer this advanced treatment option to its patients. Because proton therapy leads to fewer side effects than traditional radiation, it can be helpful for patients with cancer who experience side effects from concurrent treatments such as chemotherapy.

Preparing for Proton Therapy Treatment

Before a patient receives proton therapy treatment, the team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics will develop a plan to ensure treatment goes smoothly. Radiation therapists will walk a patient through a simulation process to prepare for treatment. This helps the therapists determine the best way to position the patient during treatment. The patient will lie still during radiation. Imaging specialists may take CT or MRI images to pinpoint the treatment area. Then, the medical team will work together to develop a treatment plan to target the patient’s tumor as effectively as possible.

On the day of treatment, a patient will undergo additional imaging. Patients are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing during treatment, and cannot wear anything with metal, such as jewelry. The patient may be fitted with a mesh mask to keep their head in a specific position during therapy. The patient will then lie still while a machine points proton beams at the tumor. The machine doesn’t cause any pain or sensation, but it does make a beeping noise.

The proton beams are only directed at a patient for a few minutes which is significantly less time than traditional radiation therapy. The entire process may take up to an hour as the therapy team will spend time preparing and positioning the patient. The medical team is not in the room with the patient but can see and hear everything during the procedure.

A patient undergoing proton therapy will typically receive several treatments over the course of a few days or more. Each case is different and the location and size of a patient’s tumor will determine their course of treatment.

Side Effects of Proton Therapy

Because proton therapy delivers a more controlled dosage of radiation, it may cause fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatment. However, side effects of this treatment may include:

  • Hair loss near the treatment site
  • Soreness and redness at the treatment site
  • Fatigue

After a patient receives proton therapy treatment, they can go home the same day and resume normal activities. Side effects can be cumulative, which means some patients may feel fine after their first treatment but notice fatigue after a week of treatments. Patients may need to take time off from work or school to rest.

Get in Touch With Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics

For many patients, the idea of radiation treatment near their brain or spinal cord may feel stressful. Thankfully, the team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics offers advanced medical technologies like proton therapy to treat certain spine and brain tumors. CNSO’s medical staff is committed to helping each patient find the best treatments and therapies for them. With multiple locations throughout Northern NJ, CNSO offers comprehensive care for brain, spine, and back conditions. To schedule a consultation, contact CNSO today.

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In order to provide an accurate diagnosis with the most effective treatment option for “back problems” and brain tumors, CNSO is led by neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. Under the care of our award-winning neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons, Northern NJ patients can have the confidence that their medical condition will be handled with consideration for their comfort and long-term well-being as well as technical excellence.

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