Learn More: Proton Beam Cancer Treatment

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The growth of a high-tech cancer treatment is presenting doctors with the painful choice of cost versus care. The most expensive piece of medical equipment in the United States is a highly targeted beam of radiation that delivers its dose straight to the tumor - limiting any damage to surrounding tissue. It's called proton beam radiation - and it's only available at five treatment centers in the country, though more are slated. CBS News' Dr. Emily Senay reported on the technology, and the debate it has spurred Wednesday. Read on for additional information.

Where Can You Find Proton Treatment?

  • Loma Linda University Medical Center, California
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington
  • M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
  • University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Jacksonville

  • Where Is The Treatment Going Next?
  • University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia (under construction)
  • Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, Hampton, Virginia (under construction)
  • Northern Illinois University, West Chicago (early stages)
  • Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (early stages)
  • Okalahoma City/ProCure (under construction)

  • Why Is Proton Therapy So Rare?
    According to the National Association of Proton Therapy, "Proton therapy had been limited to physics research labs until 1990. And like most new technologies, building a proton center can be an expensive endeavor for most universities and academic medical centers. The newest proton facilities to start treating patients in the last two years include the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, and the M.D. Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston. Both are now treating 60-80 patients daily as of 2008."

    Frequently Asked Questions
    Compiled from the National Association of Proton Therapy.

    Q: What kinds of tumors are best treated by proton therapy?

    A: Tumors that are localized and have not spread to distant areas of the body.

    Q: What are the side effects from proton therapy?

    A: Minimal to no side effects, compared to conventional forms of radiation. Much more easily tolerated than standard radiation therapy.

    Q: My doctor never mentioned proton therapy as a cancer treatment option? How long has proton therapy been in use for medical purposes?

    A: Proton Therapy was first proposed in 1954, but primarily had been available for very limited use. There was no hospital-based treatment centers in the world until the Proton Treatment Center opened in 1990 at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Most radiation oncologists know about proton therapy, but have not had experience working with the proton technology, making it difficult for them to advise patients on this form of treatment. But the benefits of proton treatment are expanding to other regions of the USA.

    For more proton therapy FAQ click here.

    Additional links
  • Check out the Web site of the National Association for Proton Therapy.
  • Find more information about the University of Pennsylvania's Roberts Proton Therapy Center.
  • Information on the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer center can be found here.
  • Learn more about treatment centers at the Web site of ProCure Offers State-of-the-Art Proton Beam Therapy Centers.