Woodward, Okla. —
WHAT IS PROTON THERAPY?
Dr. Gary Larson, a proton radiation oncologist with ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City, used a weapon metaphor to try to explain the difference between radiation and proton therapy.
"Radiation is the process by which beams of x-rays go through the body and give radiation to the tumor in order to kill the cancer cells. These x-rays go straight through like a bullet and damage everything, including healthy tissue as it goes through," Larson said. "With proton therapy, protons travel all the way to the tumor, giving almost no radiation to the surrounding healthy tissue. Then once they reach the tumor, they expel all their energy, so it's more like a depth charge."
The oncologist said that is what helps make proton therapy so valuable for treating certain kinds of cancer, such as brain tumors and head and neck cancer.
In addition, Larson said proton therapy is a good option for "all children who need radiation therapy."
That's because "conventional radiation can cause bones and soft tissue to not develop properly, which is not good in children who are still growing, especially when it comes to brain cancer treatment," he said.
WORTH THE COST
One detractor to proton therapy is perhaps the cost of the treatments, which can be expensive since the therapy uses advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment.
Larson noted that is also one of the reasons that there aren't more proton therapy centers, as the ProCure center in Oklahoma City alone cost $120 million to build.
But for Billy and Rita, their insurance covered the costs of the treatments.
Also the couple say they see the benefits of the treatment as worth the cost.
"People have said it's more expensive, but so what? If you don't have the pain, so what if it costs more?" Billy said.
"And even if it is more expensive, it probably costs less in the long run because you don't have to treat for all the side effects and after effects of radiation," Rita said.
For Billy and Rita, proton therapy was invaluable, which is why they are happy to now be advocates for the treatments.
"We are definitely advertising for it," Rita said. "So if someone has a tumor and they catch it early, they should definitely check it (proton therapy) out. Because after we went through this and the good experience we had with it, we felt bad for those who don't know about it."
To learn more about proton therapy and the ProCure treatment center, visit www.procure.com/ok.