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Proton radiation

Facts about the treatment

At Skandionkliniken, we use protons instead of photons, which is the energy used in traditional radiation. In some tumor diseases – and for some patients – proton radiation is a good treatment option.

The difference between proton and photon radiation

Proton radiation and traditional photon radiation have similar effects on the tumor. The difference is that a proton radiation can be controlled more precisely than photon radiation. The energy of a proton beam can be varied so that the radiation dose is at a certain predetermined depth.

Proton radiation can therefore be concentrated almost entirely on the tumor itself. The radiation dose to healthy tissue, which is close to the tumor, is then lower. This can reduce the risk of radiation damage. Proton radiation can be beneficial in treating tumors that are close to sensitive organs such as the heart, brain or a lung.

For some tumors – and for some patients – proton radiation is a good treatment option.

One group of patients who often receive proton radiation is children and adolescents, as the aim is to provide them with the most personalized treatment possible.

Proton radiation past and present

The method of treating tumors with proton radiation is not new. The first proton radiation treatments were performed in 1954 at the University of Berkeley in the United States. But Sweden was not far behind. In 1957, the first proton radiation was carried out in the country. It was at the Gustaf Werner Institute, later called The Svedberg Laboratory, in Uppsala. Initially, proton radiation was given on a small scale, almost exclusively to patients with brain tumors.

When Skandionkliniken started in 2015, proton radiation treatments began to be given on a larger scale.

Protons are positively charged hydrogen ions that are given high energy in an accelerator called a cyclotron. In the cyclotron, protons are driven up to 60% of the speed of light. When a patient is being treated, the protons are guided to the treatment room and directed with great precision at the tumor. The treatment involves damaging the DNA (genetic material) of the tumor cells so that they cannot continue to divide.

Radiation treatment – an old method

Radiation has been used to treat tumors since the beginning of the 20th century. Back then – more than a hundred years ago – radium, a radioactive element, was used. This method caused a lot of unwanted harm, both to patients and staff.

Today, completely different methods are used. The most common radiation used today is photon radiation. This is the method used in most radiation treatment clinics.

About half of all cancer patients receive radiation treatment for their disease. It is estimated that radiation treatment contributes to 30% of all cancer cures.

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