As the incidence of breast cancer continues to rise, it is more important than ever to highlight the benefits of proton therapy: an advanced form of radiation therapy that is highly effective in treating breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and there has been remarkable progress in treatment options over the years. Proton therapy is among them – yet many patients are still unaware it is an option.
Proton therapy is suitable for a broad spectrum of breast cancer patients, including those with left-sided breast cancer who may be at higher risk of heart complications with traditional radiation. Proton therapy is also appropriate for younger patients, those with regional lymph node involvement, and patients with recurrent breast cancer who have received previous radiation treatments to the chest.
One of the primary benefits of proton therapy is its remarkable precision in targeting cancerous cells. Protons, unlike conventional X-rays used for traditional radiation therapy, have the ability to stop at a specific depth within the body. This property allows the proton therapy to more precisely target cancer cells while better sparing surrounding healthy tissues. For breast cancer treatment, this precision is especially valuable as it reduces the risk of long-term damage to the heart and lungs.
The ultra-specificity of proton therapy also reduces the risk of developing secondary cancers. For breast cancer survivors, this is a particularly important consideration, as most patients are expected to live for many more years or decades after treatment, during which they could potentially develop a second malignancy.
The New York Proton Center is actively involved in clinical trials investigating the efficacy of proton therapy in treating breast cancer.
NYPC’s Director of Research and Clinical Director, Dr. Isabelle Choi, has played a significant role in driving this research and has contributed to studies both led by NYPC and in collaboration with external investigators – including a study she led with co-authors from top cancer institutions published this summer in Advances in Radiation Oncology. The study compared proton therapy and photon (X-ray) therapy for reirradiation of high-risk recurrent breast cancer. The goal was to measure which treatment modality best spares the brachial plexus, a network of nerves in the shoulder region. The study authors concluded that proton therapy is the preferred radiation treatment modality for patients requiring comprehensive reirradiation for high-risk locoregional breast cancer recurrence with brachial plexus overlap with the prior radiotherapy course.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every month, the New York Proton Center is committed to expanding awareness of early breast cancer detection and treatment and education around the benefits of proton therapy. NYPC will continue to leverage its expertise and resources to ensure that all women and men with breast cancer are aware of this treatment option and to advocate for increased access to proton therapy for all.