At last proton beam therapy ( PBT) has made it into the treatment options available to UK cancer patients.
This is tremendous news. The treatment of cancer results in collateral damage to the patient, apart from what we want it to do to the tumour cells. This new therapy minimises such damage.
The primary concern about cancer treatment will be for its curative success. A second concern, for head and neck patients , will be the permanent devastating effects that surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have on basic functions such as speech, swallowing. and nutrition. PBT is far superior to radiotherapy in this respect.
However, it is expensive and for many years it will only be available at a small number of centres across the country. How high will the needs of head and neck patients be on the priority list for deciding who receives this treatment?