The simple answer is no. While proton therapy is as effective as photon therapy (traditional radiation that uses x-rays, or beams of photons), there are no studies proving it to be more effective. Couple that with the much higher cost of proton therapy, and it starts to raise questions as to whether all the extra cost is worth the nominal gain in reduced side effects.
Studies Show Proton Therapy and Traditional Radiation Therapy Are Equivalent
There are a few studies that have compared the results of the two types of treatment when it comes to being disease-free and survival rates. This was a study comparing the results when treating medulloblastoma (brain and spinal cord tumors). Here are the conclusions:
“Disease control with proton and photon radiation therapy appears equivalent for standard risk medulloblastoma.”
Another study found similar cancer-free and survivor rates when comparing the two types of radiation therapy:
“Some experts believe that proton therapy is safer than traditional radiation, but there is limited research comparing the two treatments. Plus, proton therapy is more expensive than traditional radiation, and not all insurance companies cover the cost of the treatment, given the limited evidence of its benefits.
And proton therapy appeared to work as well as traditional radiation therapy to treat cancer and preserve life. After 3 years, 46% of patients in the proton therapy group and 49% of those in the traditional radiation therapy group were cancer free. Fifty-six percent of people who received proton therapy and 58% of those who received traditional radiation were still alive after 3 years.”
Proton Therapy Hype Vs. Price
There has been quite a lot of hype about proton therapy in the news lately. It is being touted as a great advancement in cancer care. I would argue that it is another way to fight cancer, and may have marginally reduced side effects in some patients, but when it comes to cure rates, unfortunately, there is no evidence so far that it exhibits any strong benefits over the traditional radiation therapy that we have been using for decades. It does, however, have one large drawback – price. Proton therapy is extremely expensive compared with traditional radiation therapy.
How Proton Therapy Price Affects Cancer Patients
Because they are so expensive, the only entities large enough to entertain the idea of purchasing a several million dollar instrument like a proton accelerator, are large hospital systems. Something many patients don’t know is that hospital-based radiation oncology programs are legally allowed, by insurers and Medicare, to charge higher rates and facility fees. This results in a 20-40% upcharge in the price of treatment.
NCI-designated cancer centers, in spite of receiving federal funds, are allowed to charge an even higher amount. It’s perfectly legal. It’s just the way the system works.
Same Level of Cancer Care for Less
By coming to any one of the three Precision Cancer Care locations, the cost of your care is significantly diminished compared to hospital-based radiation oncology facilities and without any sacrifice in quality of services. Plus it’s a lot more convenient! I just wish more patients knew this. If you can get the same level of care, be closer to home, and spend less out of pocket, you need to know that before deciding where to go for your cancer care.
We know you have a choice when it comes to cancer treatment centers. We know you want the very best care. We hope this information will help you choose based on real comparisons, not hospital marketing messages. Either way you choose – a hospital-based cancer treatment center, or our independent, doctor-owned cancer treatment center, we wish you the best in your cancer journey.