Alliance for Proton Therapy Access Commemorates National Brain Cancer Month

Cancer survivors' stories are incredible reminder of proton therapy’s ability to treat brain cancers

By proton-admin | May 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — During National Brain Cancer Month, the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access recognizes brain cancer survivors who are advocating for greater access to proton therapy. These advocates experienced firsthand the benefits of proton radiation and now share their stories to educate others about the power of protons.

Brain tumors’ proximity to delicate and vital structures limit the treatment options available to patients. While surgery can remove portions of cancerous brain tumors, it cannot cure cancer entirely, and tumors require a combination of surgery and radiation for treatment. Physicians may recommend proton therapy to treat brain tumors because its precision limits radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues. Proton therapy can also reduce the side effects that patients experience and improve their quality of life and long-term health.

“During National Brain Cancer Month, the Alliance honors our advocates who have experienced brain cancer and are sharing their stories so that others are aware of this powerful treatment,” said Daniel E. Smith, executive director of the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access. “Proton therapy has minimized harmful side effects for many brain cancer survivors and helped them live their fullest lives as parents, professionals, students, and athletes. We are honored to highlight advocates whose stories demonstrate the power that proton radiation therapy can have to fight brain cancer.”

Testimonials from the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access website:

Derek Willingham was diagnosed with Oligodendroglioma at age 34. When weighing treatment options, Derek’s priority was to maintain his dream job at NASA and his relationships with family and friends.

“I [was] a strong candidate for proton therapy because it simply causes less damage to brain cells than traditional radiation treatment. Through my research about proton therapy, I knew it would be my best chance of preserving my current level of functioning so I could return to the job I love.”

New father Zach Rizzuto was diagnosed with Anaplastic astrocytoma shortly after the birth of his daughter. His tumor grew quickly and required immediate treatment. He met with several doctors who recommended proton therapy as his best shot for a long, healthy life.

“Multiple doctors told me that proton therapy was my best option because it can reduce the neurocognitive side effects and ensure that the healthy tissue in my brain is not damaged by the radiation.”

31-year-old endurance athlete Brad Eastman underwent a successful surgery that removed a significant portion of his cancerous brain tumor but shortly thereafter, the remaining tumor began to grow. That’s when his cancer care team recommended proton therapy.

“Proton therapy was the only curative course of treatment at this point in Brad’s cancer journey that would not put him at risk for losing an additional 30 percent of his vision or adversely affecting his quality of life, which he and his care team had worked so hard to rebuild. In fact, proton therapy took the risk of vision loss from 30 percent to just three percent.”

When he was diagnosed with a grade-three brain tumor, 23-year-old Brent Niese and his family learned that he was an ideal candidate for proton radiation therapy.

“…a team of doctors agreed Brent would respond well to proton therapy and research demonstrates a lower rate of immediate and long-term side effects associated with proton therapy. This is an extremely important consideration given the anatomical location of Brent’s cancer, as well as his young age.”

Brain cancer patient Trish Slater dedicated years of study to earn her doctorate degree in physical therapy and was determined to find a treatment that wouldn’t compromise her ability to do her job. That’s when she learned about proton therapy.

“I was a great candidate because I was young and had a job where I needed hand strength as well as all of my cognitive faculties, and based on the location of the tumor, there was the risk of damaging healthy tissue around it with other treatments. This seemed like my best option.”

The Alliance for Proton Therapy Access believes that patients whose physicians recommend proton therapy should have fair access to the treatment. The Alliance works with cancer patients, survivors, loved ones, and caregivers to advocate for an insurance review and appeal process that ensures every individual has fair, timely, and transparent access to the care they need. An Alliance report, Cancer Care Denied, describes insurance barriers that improperly delay and deny cancer care.

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About the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access

The Alliance for Proton Therapy Access is an advocacy organization comprised of a growing community of patients, families, caregivers, physicians, and industry partners working together to make sure all cancer patients seeking proton therapy receive fair and timely payment decisions from their health insurers. The Alliance is governed by a Board of Directors made up of patients, physicians, and industry partners. Sign up to be an advocate and learn more about the Alliance at allianceforprotontherapy.org. Follow the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.