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What is Proton Therapy

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Side Effects of Proton Therapy

While the side effects of X-ray radiation therapy can be significant, with proton therapy, healthy tissues and organs receive significantly less radiation than with conventional radiation therapy, resulting in fewer side effects and better quality of life for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

During proton therapy, the beam is directed and delivered so precisely that healthy tissues and organs essentially do not receive a dose of radiation. There is still radiation released in the body and this can cause some side effects.


Side effects of proton therapy can include:

  • Fatigue: Usually not significant, but light exercise such as walking and rest can relieve symptoms.

  • Headache, nausea, and vomiting: These are the result of swelling in or around the tumor responding to radiation. This swelling can cause irritation in the area of the brain that controls nausea and/or vomiting.

  • Alopecia or hair loss: A consequence of the rays, this is temporary and occurs only where the rays pass; hair grows back in three to six months. Hair loss can be complete when combined with chemotherapy.

  • Erythema or skin redness: It is temporary and disappears 2 to 3 weeks after irradiation. Direct sun exposure after radiation should be avoided. Headgear should be worn when exposed to the sun for one year after treatment.

  • Loss of taste and appetite: These may be linked or appear independently. They usually improve gradually over several weeks to several months after treatment.

  • Anxiety and depression: These are legitimate and should be addressed. Psychological support and special treatment can be offered when necessary. Anxiety and depression can lead to problems sleeping and/or eating.

  • Inflammation of the mucous membranes: For low tumors near the upper spine, irradiation may irritate the pharyngeal mucous membranes.

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