The Side Effects of Proton Therapy

Protons are atoms that carry positive charge. A beam of protons are used to treat and irradiate benign and malignant tumors just like x-rays are used for the same purpose. As far as the biological effects of protons versus photons are concerned, there isn’t any difference.

This medical procedure is used to treat tumors in different areas of the body such as lung, prostrate, brain, head and neck. Proton therapy is also used to treat spinal or vertebral body tumors, skull base sarcomas, pediatric brain tumors, and eye melanomas.

Common proton therapy side effects include temporary hair loss and skin reactions in the direct path of the radiation and fatigue, especially when a large area of the body is being treated. These side effects occur as a result of the treatment itself or due to the radiation damage to healthy cells in the treatment area.

The severity of proton therapy side effects depends on the on the type of radiation and dosage you receive and the part of your body being treated. You need to talk to the doctors in case you experience any side-effect during or after the treatment.

Proton therapy can cause early and late side effects. Early side effects occur during or immediately after treatment and are usually gone within a few weeks. Depending on the site of the body being treated, the common side effects include tiredness or fatigue and skin problems. Other side effects include hair loss in the treatment area, mouth problems and difficulty swallowing, eating and digestion problems, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, headaches, soreness and swelling in the treatment area.

Late side effects that occur several months after the treatment are usually rare and are often permanent. They include brain changes, spinal cord changes, lung changes, and kidney changes to name a few.

Using techniques such as proton therapy, imaging specialists are maximizing the cancer-destroying capabilities while minimizing its effect on healthy tissues and organs and the side effects of the treatment itself.

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