long term side effects of radiation to the spine
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Proton Therapy for Tumors Near the Spine
Maximum Precision. Minimal Risk.
Proton therapy is an advanced and highly precise form of radiation treatment that effectively treats spinal tumors while also greatly reducing the risk of short and long-term side effects.
By targeting the only tumor, proton therapy minimizes excess radiation to surrounding organs and healthy tissue. Unlike standard X-ray radiation, which relies on photons to reach cancer cells, protons are deposited directly into the tumor and then stop. With no exit dose in proton therapy, radiation exposure is drastically reduced and patients are able to maintain their quality of life both during and after treatment.
Treating Tumors Near The Spine With Proton Therapy
Spinal tumors can be especially challenging to treat due to their proximity to the central nervous system. It is particularly important to limit excess radiation to surrounding healthy tissue in order to avoid the risk of long-term and potentially life-threatening side effects such as motor impairment or paralysis. Through the use of Pencil Beam Scanning, a highly sophisticated form of proton therapy, radiation is delivered into the tumor layer by layer with millimeter precision, which offers higher chances of controlling the tumor, and minimizes damage to nerves that affect your ability to feel and move.
Unlike standard X-ray radiation, proton therapy is less invasive with much lower risk of side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and breathing difficulties due to radiation exposure to the lungs. The reduction of radiation-related toxicity also increases the likelihood that patients can complete treatment with fewer interruptions or delays, as well as lowers the odds of secondary cancers.
Proton Therapy vs X-ray/IMRT for Tumors Near The Spine
Proton therapy delivers less radiation to the lungs and other nearby organs than X-ray radiation. These images show the areas around the spine exposed to radiation during treatment. Where standard X-ray treatment releases radiation from the moment it penetrates the skin and all the way through to the other side of the tumor, proton therapy deposits radiation directly into the tumor without exiting through surrounding healthy tissue.
Benefits of Proton Therapy for Tumors Near The Spine
- Precisely targets the tumor, maximizing the dose to cancer cells
- No exit dose results in lower radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and critical organs, including the nerves that affect vision, hearing, and motor skills
- Lower risk of side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, and better protection of the central nervous system
- Patients can maintain quality of life during and after spinal cancer treatment
- Effective option for recurrent cancers in patients who previously received radiation therapy
- Reduced risk of secondary cancer due to radiation
- FDA approved treatment
Is Proton Therapy Right for Me?
Most patients with spinal tumors are good candidates for proton therapy. At ProCure, the tumors we treat include:
- Desmoid tumors
- Recurrent spine tumors (previously treated)
To find out if you might benefit from proton therapy, call us to schedule a consultation. Our radiation oncologists are here to help you determine a course of treatment that is right for you.
Tumors Near The Spine Treatment FAQs
Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation that destroys cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing. Proton therapy uses protons—positively charged atomic particles—instead of the photons used in standard X-ray radiation therapy. With proton therapy, doctors can precisely target the spinal tumor while minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. Unlike standard X-ray radiation, protons deposit much of their radiation directly in the tumor and then stop.
Depending on your spinal tumor diagnosis, treatments are usually given 5 days a week for a period of 4-7 weeks. Each treatment session can range from 15-60 minutes, but the actual proton delivery is only about 60 seconds.
Yes. Proton therapy can be used in combination with conventional radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and/or as a follow-up to surgery
The spinal tumors most appropriate for proton therapy include:
- Desmoid tumors
- Recurrent spine tumors (previously treated)
Proton therapy is covered by Medicare and many private insurance providers. The center has financial counselors who are dedicated to guiding you through the insurance process and will work with you to review benefits (such as co-pay, deductible, out-of-pocket costs) offered by your insurance company. If you have questions about coverage, please contact us and have your insurance plan, group number, and member ID ready. Once supplied to the center, one of our intake members will be in contact to review the benefits offered by your insurance company.
Proton therapy and X-ray radiation therapy both treat tumors near the spine by killing cancer cells when they attempt to divide and multiply. However, there is an important difference. X-ray radiation releases its maximum dose of radiation quickly after penetrating the skin and continues to release radiation as it passes through your body beyond the tumor, exposing more tissue to unwanted radiation and potentially causing more damage to healthy tissue and organs. Proton therapy delivers most of the radiation exactly at the tumor site and then stops. There is essentially no radiation exposure beyond the tumor site once the radiation has reached and covered the treatment area. This allows proton radiation to target the tumor while reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
There are a number of studies that show proton therapy is an effective treatment for tumors near the spine. These studies can be found on our Research page.
Most spinal tumor patients do not experience side effects during proton therapy treatment. If side effects do occur, such as mild fatigue or nausea, they are generally minor and very manageable. Additionally, proton therapy has a low risk of long-term and life-threatening side effects like motor impairment or paralysis. Most patients can continue to be active and engage in their normal daily activities during and after treatment.
Many patients with spinal tumors are good candidates for proton therapy. If you are interested in proton therapy as a treatment option, we can schedule a consultation for you to speak with one of our radiation oncologists. During the consultation, the radiation oncologist will discuss different treatment options with you and determine if you may benefit from proton therapy. The radiation oncologists at ProCure use various forms of radiation to treat spinal cancer in addition to proton therapy, so they will provide you with a treatment recommendation that best fits your needs.