Lung cancer survivor: Why I’m grateful for proton therapy

Before my lung cancer diagnosis in 2007, I didn’t know anything about proton therapy. But then I came to MD Anderson for a second opinion after surgery, and scans done there revealed an enlarged lymph node in my chest that nobody else had noticed. Living in Houston, I was well aware of MD Anderson’s reputation. So when Dr. Garrett Walsh, Dr. David Grosshans and Dr. Ritsuko Komaki (now retired) said they thought I’d be a good candidate for proton therapy, I said OK. I trusted them completely. One reason my doctors recommended proton therapy was because the cancerous lymph node was so close to my heart, and this would limit its exposure to radiation. I had about seven weeks of proton therapy daily under their supervision, along with a reduced dose of weekly chemotherapy to make it more effective. And I’ve been cancer-free ever since. What I’ve learned about proton therapy Since then, I’ve learned that proton therapy isn’t used to treat all types of cancer. It turns out I was actually one of the first lung cancer patients at MD Anderson to receive proton therapy back in 2007. But it’s being used to treat more and more types of cancer today. The best thing about proton therapy is that it treats the cancer while minimizing radiation exposure to the rest of your body. So, normal, healthy tissues aren’t as affected, and there are typically fewer side effects than with traditional radiation therapy. My proton therapy side effects My diseased lymph node was also very close to my esophagus, so I did have some discomfort and trouble swallowing during...