Treatment same all over UK
I WOULD like to correct inaccurate suggestions that patients in Wales do not have the same access to proton therapy as patients in England.
In fact, there is no difference between Wales and England. Individual cases are considered on a clinical basis by an expert UK panel, irrespective of where the patient lives.
Proton therapy is a special form of radiotherapy where the treatment is given by protons (tiny particles smaller than an atom) rather than high energy X-rays.
Proton therapy can deliver a more targeted form of radiotherapy which in certain circumstances can offer a better treatment than X-ray treatment.
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For adults, there are some rare cancers which are not very responsive to radiotherapy and where proton therapy can deliver a higher dose of treatment than is possible with X-rays and can increase the chance of cure.
For many children with cancer, the better targeting of the treatment can be used to reduce some of the long-term side effects of treatment, particularly the effect of radiotherapy on bone growth.
There is no high energy proton treatment machine in the UK, and since April 2008 there has been an arrangement for suitable patients to be referred abroad to a few proton treatment centres in Europe or the USA, funded by the NHS.
There is an agreement between a panel of specialists in the UK and the proton treatment centres abroad as to which patient should be considered for referral abroad for this therapy.
There are separate lists for children and adults, and individual patients' cases are considered by the expert panel.
The cancers considered suitable to be referred for proton therapy are the same in all parts of the UK, and there is no difference between Wales and England in terms of which patients are considered suitable.
Professor of Clinical Oncology,
College of Medicine,