Radiation treatment for cancer has become as precise as the tip of a pencil. With pencil beam proton therapy, doctors can pinpoint tumors more accurately than ever before, while greatly reducing the number of treatments and the risk of damaging healthy cells. Brenna Donnelly shows us how it worked for one man with cancer in tonight’s health cast.

Brenna Donnelly Reporting
Donald Dolan is just a few weeks out from having pencil beam proton therapy for prostate cancer.

Donald Dolan
“I feel fine. I just don’t have quite the energy I had prior to all of this taking place.”

He was the first prostate cancer patient to get the treatment at Arizona’s Mayo Clinic.

The proton therapy machine uses magnets to accelerate hydrogen protons in something called the syncotron, then sends them through a nozzle into a treatment room. Whether it’s prostate or another type of cancer, traditional radiation goes in one side of the body and out the other, potentially damaging healthy organs and tissue. The proton beam can stop at the tumor. Center Director Sameer Keole says think of protons as a car.

Sameer Keole, MD, Director of Proton Therapy Center, Mayo Clinic
“You want to go 60 miles, and the car got 20 miles a gallon. You just put in 3 gallons of gas, it would go 60 miles and it would stop.That’s exactly what protons do. We actually can scan left to right and up and down with inline and cross line magnets. And so this is very, very elegant.”

This precision means Doctor Keole safely used higher doses of radiation for donald, cutting treatment time from 44 days to 28 and Donald got back to relaxing with his wife, Sharon, much sooner.
For tonight’s Health Cast, I’m Brenna Donnelly, KFDX 3 News.

Doctor Keole says there are only 23 proton therapy centers in the US, and with a price tag of $80-million dollars a machine, you can understand why.
He says he does believe that all new centers built will have the capability for pencil beam therapy.
For more information on this procedure go to texomashomepage.com.