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Understanding Proton Therapy: A Revolutionary Approach to Cancer Treatment

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses protons instead of x-rays to treat cancer. It’s a precise method of radiation treatment with fewer side effects compared to traditional radiation therapy. Here’s a simplified explanation of how it works:

1. Creation of Protons: Protons are positively charged particles. In proton therapy, these protons are generated by a machine called a cyclotron or synchrotron. The machine accelerates the protons to nearly the speed of light.

2. Targeting the Tumor: The high-energy protons are then directed towards the tumor using a machine called a gantry. The gantry rotates around the patient, allowing the protons to be aimed at the tumor from any angle.

3. Delivery of Protons: The protons are sent into the body through a small tube. As the protons move through tissue, they slow down, interacting with electrons and releasing energy.

4. Bragg Peak: The unique property of protons is that they deposit most of their energy at a specific depth in the body, known as the Bragg Peak. This depth can be calculated based on the type and location of the cancer. Beyond the Bragg Peak, there is minimal radiation, which means less damage to healthy tissues and organs near the tumor.

5. Destruction of Cancer Cells: The energy released by the protons damages the DNA of the cancer cells, which disrupts their ability to reproduce and grow. Over time, the body naturally gets rid of these damaged cancer cells.

Proton therapy is particularly useful for treating tumors that are close to critical organs or structures, as it allows for a high dose of radiation to be delivered to the tumor while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues. However, not all types of cancer are suitable for proton therapy, and the decision to use this treatment method is made on a case-by-case basis.

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