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Patient Stories

Petr Horáček – interview 3years after treatment

A charismatic man in his prime, Petr Horáček is clearly someone who enjoys life. Which makes it all the more surprising when this vital individual openly admits that he beat prostate cancer. Peter enjoys boasting about his sports accomplishments, his physical condition and bold plans for the future. He also says that the life he leads today is due in no small part to the modern treatment method of proton therapy. 

This director, scriptwriter, moderator, musician, golf promoter and passionate golfer claims that after treatment and radiation therapy at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague he is back to full strength and with the drive to continue everything he had been doing before his diagnosis. 

When did you learn you had prostate cancer? 

It was not quite three years ago, and at the time it was a serious shock that forced me to re-evaluate many things, begin to act quickly and above all make key decisions. At first I searched the Internet to learn what I could about prostate cancer and what my options were as a patient. I began to look at treatment possibilities, and I found a modern gentle method – proton therapy – and discovered that one of the most advanced proton centers, a facility that was even equipped with Czech scanning technology, was located right in Prague. 
 
What’s it like to decide for a treatment previously described as a novelty, an experiment, or an insufficiently tested method? 

Each person must evaluate their own condition and options and then make the decision that is best for them. It was clear to me from the beginning that it is my life and that I am willing to take responsibility only when I agree that the given method is truly the best for me. I was convinced that proton therapy was the right choice. It is possible to find clinical studies and patient stories, and calling something that has been around since the middle of the last century new is also unusual. Yes, proton therapy has been given various labels, but today, three years after my treatment, the situation is completely different. 

How?

Treatment in the Czech Republic is embedded in law in agreement with international recommendations by companies firms such as ASTRO and is paid by Czech health insurance companies.

What exactly did treatment entail?

First I had to undergo a predatory stage involving six months of hormone injections. These were followed by 21 radiation treatments, during which I also received one more hormone injection. Nevertheless, I didn’t experience any changes or processes that impacted my life – no restrictions, pain or complications. 

What feelings did you experience during the treatment?

Mainly relief. Relief that I had found a way to save my life and, moreover, without it being apparent to anyone. I didn’t talk about my diagnosis, so many people had no idea I was undergoing cancer treatment. 

What was the worst thing about the treatment?

Nothing horrible actually happened. The treatment is not painful. Sometimes I was a little tired and had hot flashes, and I wasn’t very interested in sex. But everything was fine after treatment☺.

How do you feel now two years after treatment? 

I can say that after two years my physical condition is back to where it was before treatment and I feel absolutely normal in every other way. I know that doctors usually wait until five years after treatment to evaluate its success, but I already feel it was successful, and if I found myself again in a similar situation, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to take the same path. The results are exactly what I expected!

But isn’t that just the typical enthusiasm of a patient who is relieved?

Not at all. I have the opportunity in my family to compare ‘classic’ or ‘standard’ treatment, i.e. an operation, with photon treatment, and there is a huge difference. With respect to quality of life, I can say that I am truly living, whereas my brother is merely surviving. And that is sufficient evidence for me that I was lucky and made the right choice. 

Besides your health, naturally, what else did proton therapy give you? 

I make my living by standing on the stage, in front of the camera and the very critical eyes of the public, and I am not restricted in any way; I can perform my work to the full and enjoy the success that I have. I also love golf and I can continue to enjoy playing without worrying about changing diapers, incontinence, fatigue that forces you off the course, without feeling inferior and other similar frustrating situations.

I am not saying that golf cannot be played with these restrictions, but I don’t have them and I can enjoy my passion for the sport and the beautiful natural settings again, only now with humility and gratitude that I made the right decision at the beginning of treatment. I would like to tell everyone that proton treatment was the great hole-in-one of my life!

Big adventure of a little patient recovering after proton therapy, or a proton story of little fighter Dias from Kazakhstan

5-year-old Dias Muratov from Kazakhstan has finished therapy in the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague. The story of this brave little patient is no less interesting than the story of British patient Ashya King. The journey of little Dias to therapy in the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague was also adventurous, and after thirty radiation treatment days his parents, alike the Kings, hope that they will return to the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague next year to celebrate the treatment results as well. But let us come back to the beginning:

When the second son was born in the Murat family, they were happy. They were also proud, because the boy's development was good; when he was one, he talked, walked, and was lively and interested in everything. Nothing indicated any future problems. When he was three, his gait became unsteady, he had trouble keeping his balance and vomited in the morning. Magnetic resonance imaging confirmed a big brain tumor (7x6x5 cm). Craniopharyngioma is very rare and is diagnosed in just 2 of one million children. After the first shock, the parents started searching the possibilities for therapy, they contacted numerous specialists throughout the world, but due to complications, caused by water generated in the brain, travelling to distant places was impossible. At a prestigious clinic in Moscow, where they were able to travel, the boy underwent further examination, and to their surprise, the doctors' verdict was: No surgery. They thought that surgery would be too risky and were afraid that Dias' state of health would become even worse. Instead of surgery, they removed water accumulated around the tumor and decided to wait. Although the mum asked them many questions, the answer was just concise: "Go home, we will be in contact, the condition is not good enough for surgery at the present time."

At that time the boy was unable to walk, and the parents again took his medical records and sent them around the world. Scans and medical records were directed to prestigious health centers in Germany, Korea, Israel and Turkey. The parents were looking for a neurosurgeon who would be able to perform surgery on their son. Eventually, there remained 4 out of the 40 addressed, and the Murats decided for professor Shlomi Constantini, the president of the International Federation of Neuroendoscopy, a member of committees of world and European neurosurgical societies, and travelled to Israel to meet him. Professor Constantini, however, confirmed the views of the Moscow colleagues that surgery was impossible at that time. In the meantime, water started to generate in the brain again and needed to be removed. After this necessary medical intervention, the family travelled back home; the boy's tumor should have been checked by magnetic resonance imaging every three months and the results consulted with doctors in Israel. Everything continued well until one of the cysts around the tumor started to grow and press on the optic nerve. Scans, which were sent to Israel, persuaded the doctors that the situation needs to be resolved. The professor and his team decided to take out the cyst and to consider during the surgery whether to take part of the tumor out. This happened in the end, and at that time it was obvious that the next step after the surgery would be radiation.

Radiotherapy was mentioned first by the doctors in Moscow, and already at that time Mr. Muratov started gathering available information. Therefore he was prepared; he knew about gamma knife, about photon and proton therapies, as well as their comparison and advantages of proton therapy. But there is no proton centre in Israel. Therefore professor Constantini recommended standard photon therapy as the radiation method, he wanted to monitor the boy. The parents preferred proton therapy and asked whether it would be a problem if they found a possibility for this therapy in a different country. As the doctor would not be able to monitor little Dias directly, he told the parents that he did not like it very much, but surely knew the advantages of proton therapy and collaborated with American proton centers. But America was too far and travelling over the ocean would be dangerous for the little patient. So they browsed the Internet, and the answer to "proton therapy" was Prague. "When it appeared on the computer monitor and I could see the first pictures of treatment of children in the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague and read their stories, I knew I wanted to go to Prague" Dias' mother says. "We also saw the Korean Proton Therapy Centre, but the technology used in Prague was more advanced, and they had gained experience of treating children, and it was also closer to our home" she recollects her memories. "After discussion with professor Constantini, it was clear that Dias should undergo the proton therapy, ideally in Prague. And we immediately called them, sent medical records, and received a confirmation within a few hours that the diagnosis of our son was suitable for proton therapy, and they would admit him for treatment. The Proton Therapy Centre in Prague helped us a lot in official dealings, they also arranged admission to the University Hospital in Prague, but the originally planned date in August had to be put off", explains the mum. Some complications appeared in Dias and he had to undergo another surgery; the doctors monitored the boy and then the day came when it was decided that Dias could be transported to Prague.

The parents recollect their first moments in the Proton Therapy Centre as a real miracle.

"We will never forget the time when we entered the reception, everything was shining, we met smiling receptionists who spoke perfect English and Russian, a nurse took us to the consultation room where a doctor explained everything that was to be done, they then took the boys to the games room where they explained to Dias, using small toy figures, what was going to happen. He was still a bit afraid on the first day, but on the following days he ran to the lift looking forward to see the nurses, and mainly to the end of a radiation treatment session, and he wakes up and can play with toys again."

Dias underwent 30 radiation fractions, thirty anesthesias; and as the parents admitted, they were afraid at the beginning, but now, on the last day of therapy, they are happy, because their little hero underwent full therapy without problems. On the last day of therapy, little patients usually say goodbye to the Proton Therapy Centre, to the doctors and nurses, at a small celebration and beat a drum to start the way to a new life – Dias was looking forward to it all the time. He beat the drum vigorously, sang a song and gobbled up his favorite pizza; his parents took over the final report in the meantime. The doctors in Israel are waiting for it. They will continue the boy's treatment, and as professor Constantini has told the parents, he wanders how such a rare tumor will react to proton therapy, and if the therapy is successful, he will be pleased to send his patients to one of the best proton therapy centers in Europe.

The medical report from Prague will be sent to the Ministry of Health in Kazakhstan, who paid for boy's therapy. And the report is accompanied with the thanks of the parents. As the father had explained, the Ministry has a program under which it is possible to pay for treatment abroad that is not available in Kazakhstan to Kazakhstan nationals. And this was the case for little Kazakh Dias Muratov.

The Murat's departed Prague with tears in their eyes, if it were not for the diagnosis of their son, they would apparently ne unaware that were in a clinic. And the help and support of all of the people they met there contributed to the fact that their son successfully underwent therapy in Prague. And all of the people in the Proton Therapy Centre believe that the therapy will help Dias, and that he will come back to Prague in a year's time to celebrate his recovery. Till then they all keep their fingers crossed.

 

Reportáž ze setkání zahraničních zástupců a odborné veřejnosti


Click at the video with a British patient treated with prostate cancer at PTC Czech

 

 

 




"I wish doctors would inform their patients about the right treatment for them“, says the daughter of a patient treated for pancreatic cancer

Many coincidences hae brought Mr Vilem (60 years) to the
Proton Therapy Center in Prague. He went for a medical examination because he had a new GP and it was insisted upon because of his age. "When they diagnosed me with having a high blood sugar level, I thought I had diabetes. After that, I started to lose weight and had major bowel problems. I had several examinations with my stomach – all seemed clear. It was only when my skin turned yellow, they performed a CT at the hospital. I was diagnosed with pancreatic carcinoma the size of a size walnut. Surgery wasn't possible in my case and the doctors only mentioned chemotherapy. It was my daughter who found about the possibility of proton beam therapy.

"We were not concerned with reimbursement at the time. I was informed that proton therapy was the right treatment for me and, fortunately, my insurance covered it“. Vilém started 18 sessions of proton radiation and commuted from Southern Czech to Prague every day. The treatment was ok: "I have never experienced a better approach to patient care“, he stated today, one month after treatment. His health got worse towards the end, when the treatment was combined with oral chemotherapy. “At that time, I lost my sense of taste, but now, I can eat almost anything”, says Vilem, who is a former butcher. He feels well, albeit somewhat weak. He now faces another cycle of chemotherapy which will show whether the disease has progressed. "I am happy that we have chosen treatment in your center. I only wish doctors informed patients more adequately about this modern method of cancer treatment“, states the daughter of Vilém.

Comment: The name and photograph have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.



"One phone call helped me feel better", says a patient treated with carcinoma of paranasal sinuses

“It started as a toothache, a swollen face and pressure in my eye“, stated Gabriela, from Slovakia. At first, the physicians thought it was caused by a dental cavity and arranged for a tooth to be removed. However the swelling continued to develop and the physicians sent Gabriela for a CT examination. After two days there was a biopsy and then a (seemingly long) wait for the results.

There wasn't much time to spare– an aggressive carcinoma of the paranasal sinuses was spreading very fast and there was danger of sustaining permanent damage to the eye and other nerves. “At that time, I was confronted with the fact that, in the event of surgery, my nerves would be damaged or that I might lose my sight. Another option was chemotherapy or conventional radiotherapy. I was immediately commenced on two cycles of chemotherapy and understood that I could lose my hair as a result. Since I am working in the field of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, I was not very pleased with this. Subsequently I realised that lose of hair was the least of my problems! Since I am active, do sports and eat well, I didn't have a problem tolerating the chemotherapy - I only lost two kilos."

"After this I had to decide what to do next. At that time, I found out about the Proton Therapy Center in Prague and started reading information about it on the internet. I found out that if I started conventional radiotherapy, I ran the risk of not only losing my hair, but also my sense of taste or even my sight! Risk of damage to the sensitive facial nerves was much higher with conventional radiotherapy, as opposed to protons.”

Gabriela was thrilled when her insurance company agreed to reimburse the cost of proton treatment. She started 38 treatment sessions, and attended the Prague facility in the company of her new husband who provided a great deal of support to her. “Support from family and loved ones is extremely important - especially in the latter half of the treatment process, when treatment starts to become more of a burden.“ Throughout the first four weeks, Gabriela had a combination of chemotherapy and proton radiotherapy. She handled the treatment well and even had time to enjoy Christmas time in Prague. It was only during the last two weeks of treatment that she began to feel tired - a side effect that sometimes occurs during a course of proton therapy and subsides after treatment ends.”Now I have to wait 3 months for the PET/CT, before seeing further signs of progress - I have to stay calm now and get plenty of rest.“

“I really appreciated the human and professional approach at the Prague proton centre. I was able to call my proton oncologist at any time – even before commencing chemotherapy I called her, and she told me: 'Don’t worry, it will be ok - Do this first and then we will continue in Prague.' Unless you've had the same experience, you can't know how important this type of contact with your treating physician can mean to a patient.“


Prostate cancer treatment - painless and without side effects!
Read Joe's story in DAILY MAIL UK HERE!

Joe (69) was diagnosed with prostate cancer after his GP in the UK sent him for a routine blood test. "Although my PSA level was 7.2, the first biopsy didn't show anything significant. My urologist suggested a second more extensive biopsy to establish if active surveillance was the correct cause of action. This revealed more invasion of the prostate gland and the recommendation was 1-2 months of X-ray radiotherapy. At this point I had to take a deep breath and ask for time to consider the future."

Joe was on a vacation in Prague for a full month and, by a coincidence, came across an article in the Blesk newspaper (30.1. 2013) about a proton facility in Prague. "There happened to be an article about your center and the positive results being achieved with prostate cancer treatment. My urologist gave me a list of possible treatments, but did not mention proton therapy to me – so I was just lucky to come across this article,“ says Joe with a smile today. He did his own search and was persuaded by the characteristics of protons, in that they are very accurate, and greatly reduce the side effects associated with usual treatment options.

Joe approached PTC directly, met Dr Ondrova for the first consultation and started a 5 session treatment cycle almost immediately. As he says, the treatment went very smoothly, he spent no more than 30 minutes in the centre on each of the visits. "I didn't feel anything during the proton irradiation process and at one point I thought, are they doing anything to me at all? Of course I had to turn around into the right position which took some time but this was not a problem,“ Joe adds.

What did he think about the centre itself? "I think it is a wonderful facility - simply state of the art, bit of a science fiction". And the medical staff - "I could talk with the doctors about anything which was also quite important - they answered all my questions and concerns as well as put me at ease and made me feel that my illness is only passing by". He also appreciated the easy accessibility of the facility from the city centre– "I was able to drive myself to the centre every day without difficulty."

Now, 3 months after his proton therapy, he has returned to the Proton Center for a regular check up with great news – his PSA level has dropped significantly to 2.9! "Of course, there is still some way to go but I can't stress enough that this must be the route forward." Joe said. Finally, commenting on Czech, he observed that: "Prague is being recognized more and more in the eyes of the rest of the world“, not only for it's rich history and culture, but also for it's technological innovations and being at the front of latest available healths treatments."

First British Prostate Cancer Patient After 2 Weeks Treatment by Proton Therapy in Prague - with no pain, no side effects

Source: Proton Therapy Center, October 2013


Peter (69)
Story of another British patient treated with prostate cancer in Prague


I was diagnosed with a low level prostate cancer in 2010 and elected to join the active surveillance programme in London. In August this year my condition worsened and I was recommended active treatment. Two alternatives were offered, either a surgery, or a six month long Hormone therapy, followed by two months of Conventional radiation. I discussed these and other alternative treatments with my urologist, including HIFU, Brachytherapy and Proton radiation.

Side Effects
Fortunately during my long active surveillance programme I was able to research in some detail all available treatments in some detail. I accepted that all the treatments were able to treat cancer, but I became very concerned about their relative side effects. I am a person who enjoys playing sports and have an active social life. I love to travel and participate in business and charitable activities. I did not wish the treatment to affect my lifestyle and the quality of my life. I also felt that I had the basic human right to minimise my pain and suffering during the actual treatment. By doing research and by talking to others I discovered that Proton treatment has significantly fewer and less significant side effects than other treatments.

Proton Center in Prague
Proton treatment has been available in the USA for more that two decades and over that period become available in other countries. It is not available in the UK, although the Proton machines have been ordered by the NHS. They will only be available in some five years' time. I visited and ultimately selected the Proton Therapy Center in Prague for several reasons. The medical professionals, led by the Medical Director Professor Herbst, have excellent long term expertise. The Center itself is the state of the art modern medical facility, using the most advanced treatment. It is specialised and dedicated to deliver just the Proton treatment. The Proton treatment not only has minimal side effects, but it is also quicker and therefore more acceptable to me as a patient.

Once I decided to go ahead, I did not wish to spend almost a year in a Hormone and Conventional radiation treatment. The alternative of surgery was to me unacceptable, I risks were too high. Although moving to Prague for a month entails some dislocation and a change in daily routine, I took it as a holiday opportunity. The Center is conveniently situated close to the centre of Prague, which is a lovely city to stay in and explore. The Proton Center staff are friendly, as well professional, and available at any time for chat or consultation.

My Treatment
My treatment started at the University Hospital in Aachen, Germany to insert a gel screen and gold grains to protect other organs from radiation and to make the treatment highly accurate. I then flew to Prague, where the tests and programming of the Proton machine took a couple of days. I had daily radiation treatments , five days a week, lasting less then 20 minutes. I stayed in an apartment in the historical centre of Prague, just below the castle and drove myself daily to the Center, which took me about 15 minutes. I spent the afternoons driving out into the countryside, walking around the city, or playing tennis, golf or going to the gym. In the evenings I went out to concerts, movies, restaurants. My family and friends visited me and had a bit of a holiday themselves. The side effects involved some irritation in the bladder and that naturally affected my sleeping. I was assured that these side effects would gradually disappear after a couple of weeks. The final test is due in two months time, when my body has had the time to recuperate.

Having done lot of research I had high expectations of the quality of the treatment in Prague, but did not quite believe that the whole experience would be smooth. To my delight it was. I am now back home in London and my treatment / holiday experience in Prague is gradually drifting into a pleasant memory.

Read more about Peter and his treatment in London Evening Standard here.
 


Proton therapy is the golden standard for its cure of chordoma

„About five years ago, I had a pain at my sacral area. After MRI examination, I was diagnosed with sacral chordoma“, says Asli, a 39 year old Turkish smily lady. The tumour was removed by a surgery which took nine hours. After the surgery, Asli took conventional radiotherapy for two months. „During the treatment, my immune system weakened, and I got a serious infection. My bowel and ovaries were affected. So it was not so nice“, she remembers.




 
Prostate Cancer Patient For 15 Years
Story of a Norwegian patient


79 year old previously hard working engineer Roald was diagnosed with prostate carcinoma 15 years ago. As an active hiker and pioneer of new hiking trails, this was devastating news. "My life just suddenly fell apart", said Roald.

He decided not to quit however, and instead to try all available treatments in Norway and beyond. Besides chemotherapy, Roald also underwent 4 courses of radiation treatment in Norway, and later on he travelled to China
for gene therapy and immunotherapy.

After that he tried hyperthermia treatment combined with chemotherapy in Lithuania. "I felt like a guinea pig at times, but I love experimenting and have to try!“ Roald felt that his fitness level was rapidly worsening – especially after the long radiotherapy sessions and after each round of chemotherapy - it took him months to get back into shape. For Roald, side effects after his conventional radiotherapy treatment included rectal bleeding.

"I have completed my treatment and I cannot wait to see my PET/CT scans in September“, stated Roald, firmly. I found the Proton Therapy Center on the internet, on a private Norwegian clinic website. I was doing my own search for different cancer treatment methods and decided on proton therapy.”

Roald’s treatment process could be described as a long-term fight with a slowly progressing prostate cancer, with distant metastases and lymph node involvement in the pelvis,” stated Dr. Vítek, of the Proton Center in Czech. Roald was treated using 'pencil beam scanning', the most advanced proton therapy technique in the world, for a period of 5 weeks. He experienced no serious complications during or after his treatment sessions even though the treated volume was large.

"I feel well and have remained active throughout my entire treatment process. I walk from my accommodation to the Proton Center and back, every day“, adds Roald - his guesthouse is situated 25 minutes walking distance from the facility. "My bed & breakfast hotel is very nice, it has a very nice courtyard patio where I can sit and enjoy breakfast each morning“, stated Roald. His accommodation was also organized by patient managers from the Proton Center.

“We look forward to seeing this patient return for his check-up and we feel optimistic because the latest blood test shows some positive changes are happening in his body”, added doctor Vitek. “The patient has virtually no side effects and no progression of his cancer.”

“I feel as though I am getting younger!”, Roald says, laughing. He is looking forward to returning home to Norway, with a renewed mental outlook and wants to pass his story onto other patients. 

Source: Proton Therapy Center, July 2013

Proton Therapy Maintains Quality of Life for Teresa From UK

Teresa (43) from England was diagnosed with a serious type of brain tumour, and was given the devastating news this year that she only had 6-12 weeks to live. She went to Prague for a special treatment known as proton therapy.

Teresa did not give up however and, together with her husband, contacted a UK based patient charity which referred them to the Proton Therapy Center in Prague - the newest proton therapy clinic with world renowned specialists in radiation oncology and proton therapy. After sending her scans electronically, Teresa received a prompt reply from the specialists at the center approving her for a 3 week cancer treatment known as 'proton beam therapy'. It was said that this revolutionary cancer treatment can help her decrease the symptoms and improve the side effects of her cancer. There was one major obstacle though – after brain surgery Teresa could not fly. Fortunately, Prague being so close to the UK, she and her husband were able to leave and drive here over the weekend. A pleasant hotel was already arranged for her within walking distance of the center as part of the patient management service.

Teresa and her husband were pleasantly surprised to discover just how comfortable the experience was here in Prague, and the professionality of the centre: "The experience here at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague has been unbelievable really, everything feels so natural and comfortable, a lot different from going to a regular hospital back home. There you are one of many, and we are one of many here too, but the difference being that people here make you feel like you're the only one here. The staff put you at ease, people greet you every morning, the girls at the reception are wonderful, always caring and supportive. We have felt supported from the minute we first arrived, and it's not just from one person, it's from everyone."

Teresa was also impressed with the quality of the medical staff at the Proton Center in Prague, and praised them for the assistance they provided her: "Our doctor has been absolutely wonderful, and put us right at ease, made us feel that we could ask any question whatsoever - she was fabulous, and even followed us up with calls. And Prof. Herbst (medical director) has just been superb - he can explain things very clearly, and it enables me to ask questions about follow-up treatment like what to do next… and Prof. Herbst answered all those questions for us, and put us right at ease, and made us feel very comfortable."

Teresa's husband described the improvements his wife experienced, even during the treatment process itself: "At the start of treatment, back at the hotel, she would pick something off the menu, and sometimes she would have forgotten by the time the waiter had come to see her, what she actually wanted, and she'd look at me and ask - what did I want to order? And now, she's able to do that again. And that's incredible, this improvement has all happened in a 3 week period! "

Teresa herself noted that she felt much better during the proton therapy treatment process: "Even during treatment I have experienced improvements in terms of memory, speech, and many things. During our trip here, I could barely say anything, could barely speak, and last night I wrote a full SMS text message on my own. I could barely have spelt a single word 3 weeks ago. I've noticed improvements in memory, improvements in speech, and improvements in my ability to solve problems." Teresa also spoke of her Prague experience, which may be of interest to other UK citizens considering treatment at the Proton Therapy Center. Teresa visited the city center, the zoo and many other places during her stay. "There are plenty of things to do here in Prague. The treatment time is short, only 30 minutes per day, so we have a lot of free time for other things during the treatment process. "

Source: Proton Therapy Center, September 2013


One of our first patients came from Serbia 

In November 2011 Branka's doctors found a tumour on her skull base.
The sad news came that she had a 'chordoma' - a relatively rare tumour. MRI scans soon defined its size and scope. Although the tumor was benign,  it was pressing on the bones of the skull base and had spread through respiratory areas, and areas of swallowing, on its way into the brain - and was partially occluding two of the major cerebral arteries (arteries supplying blood to the brain). Because risk of damage to vital brain centres would be too high, her surgeons decided not to risk performing surgery (she was not a candidate for surgery because of a high risk to vital brain centres).

The next logical consideration was radiation treatment - however, considering the type and location of this tumour, it would not be easy to destroy. A high dose of radiation would be required, and this would also mean increasing the risk of unwanted radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. Unfortunately, conventional X-ray photon therapy in Branka's case was not possible. Although, in planning, the radiation oncologist tried various techniques (such as applying radiation from many angles and modulating the radiation beam), the computer results always warned that safe dose limits to important, sensitive brain structures would be exceeded. 

As a guiding principle, doctor's are obliged not to harm their patient's health. Conventional radiation would violate this principle and would be too dangerous for doctors to use. Her only chance was proton therapy, however this form of treatment is not currently available in her home country, Serbia.

Branka's goal however, was not to give up. She started to consider her financial resources, because Serbian health insurance does not cover oncology treatment abroad. She was left with no option but to sell her own apartment in the hope of paying for treatment. After two years, an opportunity struck her by chance. A friend living in the Czech Republic came to her with news that Prague had recently opened a new proton beam therapy center. Upon hearing this, Branka did not hesitate. After quickly communicating with specialists and confirming the suitability of proton therapy, she travelled by bus with her niece from her village in Gornja Crnuce in central Serbia to Prague. At the Centre she was met by dedicated patient managers who organised Serbian interpreter services, arranged her accommodation and transportation, and assisted her to settle in and be comfortable in Prague.

Her treatment lasted for two months, because her high dose treatments had to be administered piece by piece. She alternatively attended treatment and also had the opportunity to sightsee around Prague on days between treatment.

Due to the fact that proton therapy has minimal (or sometimes no) side effects she had the desire and physical strength to look around Prague between treatments. Even before completing treatment, her condition improved significantly. Prior to treatment Branka was almost impossible to understand when she spoke, but her speech improved as the tumour became smaller and stopped pressing her tongue to the right side. Her pain also started to disappear after a while, and she was better able to swallow - all this before even finishing her course of treatment. 

Branka felt very supported and cared for throughout her treatment, so she decided to describe her success story so that others could benefit from the new opportunity this treatment brings. "I feel better than ever before," said Branka to the staff that had cared for her throughout her treatment, as she left the facility for the final time, "and I can only hope that everything goes well."

  • Branka is due to have her follow up scans in Serbia shortly.
  • Our patient manager spoke with Branka's niece last week, and she was happy to report that Branka is feeling well.

Source: Proton Therapy Center, April 2013 


A long way to cure

The beat of a drum once again symbolises the end of treatment for 10 year old Tom*. He has completed proton therapy treatment for medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumour. This type of cancer is particularly suitable for proton therapy because radiation must be given near sensitive areas of the body - the brain and spinal cord.

Proton radiation is much more accurate and safer than other cancer treatment options - the tumour can be treated without damaging surrounding tissues of the body. He attended the Proton Therapy Center in Prague for a total of 30 treatments. He celebrated the end of his treatment last Friday with his family, doctors and staff from the Proton Therapy Center, and is looking forward to returning to school after he completes his final course of chemotherapy.

*Name changed

Source: Proton Therapy Center, June 2013

This experience made me stronger

14-year-old Diana was diagnosed with mediastinum, a tumour off middle chest. It was a rather solid tumour only treatable with a high dose of radiation. Conventional radiotherapy was not necessary due to dose tolerance of the surrounding healthy tissue of the heart or lung.

Diana started with chemoteraphy followed with conventional radiotherapy, however, it was not possible to give a suffucient dose without damaging the healthy tissue around the tumour. At that time, PTC Czech was already accepting paediatric patients for treatment in gantry treatment room.

Diana had found PTC Czech herself on the internet. After one month waiting for her insurance company to give a final statement on reimbursement of the treatment, the center decided to accept her free of charge. She felt great after each treatment visit, did not have any breathing and swallowing problems as after of conventional radiotherapy. She only had a little problem with eating average food since her chemoteraphy course.

She was very satisfied with the care she was given and wants to visit the center even later, to say hello to her doctor. „I won’t be the same person as before. This experience makes you stronger,“ Diana adds.

Source: Proton Therapy Center, May 2013  


First Slovakian Girl Receiving Life-Saving Proton Therapy

Little Veronika is the first patient in Slovakia to receive proton therapy for for an orbital tumour (behind her eye). 7-year old Veronika underwent treatment at the proton therapy center in Prague for a period of five weeks. Her treatment was covered by the Slovakian government's general health insurance program.

Being a safer and more accurate form of cancer treatment, proton therapy allowed the doctors in Prague to more effectively protect sensitive structures in Veronika's affected eye socket during
treatment, namely - the retina, optic nerve, and the lacrimal gland that produces tears, as well as protecting surrounding sensitive brain tissue.

"Veronika tolerated the treatment extremely very well. During proton treatment she also received a course of chemotherapy, which she tolerated superbly." Said Dr. Branislav "Brano" Sepeši, paediatric radiation oncologist at Proton Therapy Center Prague.

So what's next for Veronika?
Veronika has returned home to Slovakia, and has once again commenced her schooling. She will return to the care of her treating paediatric oncologist and may likely receive follow-up chemotherapy, as a preventive measure following her successful proton treatment in Prague.

Surrounded by caring family and staff members, Veronika closed her time at PTC by playing a magical Professor Proton drum! This announced the end of Veronika's successful proton therapy treatment.

Source: Proton Therapy Center, June 2013


 

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