In 2021, approximately 14,000 American women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer. This condition used to be one of the most fatal cancers for women but is now, thanks in part to innovations such as the Pap test and the HPV (human papilloma virus) test and vaccine, in many cases treatable with a variety of therapies.
In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January, we at the New York Proton Center would like to share a few things you should know if you are a patient or caregiver evaluating whether proton therapy might be the best treatment option for you or your loved one.
While proton therapy is well-established and renowned for its efficacy treating pediatric cancers and cancers near sensitive normal organs such as brain, spine, and head and neck cancers, studies have proven this ultra-precise radiotherapy treatment highly effective for a wide range of gynecological cancers as well, including cervical cancer.
In particular, for patients with advanced or recurrent forms of cervical cancer, as well as younger patients, proton therapy could be an important part of their treatment.
Proton therapy allows for highly targeted radiation doses delivered directly to the tumor, which better limits damage to surrounding tissues and organs compared with traditional radiation therapy. As a result, patients typically experience fewer severe late side effects—like damage to the cervix, rectum, or bladder—which are common for patients undergoing traditional radiotherapy. Because of its extreme precision, proton therapy is often the optimal treatment approach for cervical cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or that has recurred after prior treatments, offering many patients a new potential chance for cure.
We encourage patients to consult with their doctor and be sure to ask about proton therapy as a potential treatment option. Centers like ours have been leading the charge in research to demonstrate the efficacy and long-term benefits of proton therapy to make access to proton therapy easier through more major health insurers.
Dr. Isabelle Choi is the Director of Research and Clinical Director at the New York Proton Center. Her research focuses on improving outcomes, reducing toxicities and more effectively delivering radiotherapy for breast, gastrointestinal, and gynecologic malignancies. Among her select national leadership appointments, Dr. Choi is Chair of the Proton Collaborative Group Publications Committee and Breast Subcommittee, is Chair of the National Association of Proton Therapy’s Physician Advisory Committee, and is the President of the Korean American Society of Radiation Oncology.