Is Proton Therapy Safer Than Traditional Radiotherapy?

Medically reviewed by Dr Johann Tang, Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist
Is Proton Therapy Safer Than Traditional Radiotherapy

Proton Therapy, also known as Proton Beam Therapy, is a new type of Radiation Therapy that has shown promise in reducing side effects, while still remaining effective as a form of cancer intervention. Radiation Therapy as a whole is already becoming more popular as a safe and proven treatment for certain cancers due to medical advancements and better imaging technologies. 

Proton Therapy can build on these developments to serve as a treatment modality that minimises the side effects encountered by the patient while keeping cure rates steady. In this article, we take a deeper dive into how Proton Therapy works and why it’s safer than traditional Radiotherapy.

Learn More: How External Beam Radiation Therapies Treat Cancer

What is Proton Therapy

Typical Radiation Therapy in Singapore uses photon radiation via x-ray beams to target and destroy tumours. This works to damage the DNA of cancer cells and slowly kill them off over multiple treatments. Inevitably, some of the radiation gets deposited into normal tissues beyond those targeted by the therapy, causing several localised side effects that can range from minor to severe.

Proton Therapy remedies these issues to some extent by using positively charged protons as opposed to photon radiation. These charged protons do not scatter as they enter the body and tend to deliver most of their radiation dose to the cancer cells. The proton particles can be calibrated to stop at the tumour, and very little residual radiation is released beyond the target. Damage to normal healthy tissue is thereby heavily reduced.

Why Is Proton Therapy Safer

Why Is Proton Therapy Safer?

The main risk of Radiation Treatment lies in damage to healthy tissue. Even with sophisticated imaging from CT scans and MRIs, some level of photon radiation is guaranteed to affect normal cell DNA. In most cases, the benefits of killing off the cancer cells outweigh the risks to healthy tissue. 

With Proton Therapy, patients may no longer have to weigh the downsides as it is a more targeted approach that reduces damage to tissue around the tumour. Hence, Proton Therapy may be recommended for cancers that are in more sensitive parts of the body such as the spinal cord, eyes, and brain.

Traditional Radiotherapy can also cause secondary cancers in normal organs due to the radiation used to kill the tumours. The lower doses received by normal organs during Proton Therapy can also help in these situations by reducing the risk of secondary cancers occurring due to the treatment.

Are There Any Risks To Proton Therapy

Are There Any Risks To Proton Therapy?

As with any medical treatment, and especially cancer treatments, there are several risks and side effects associated with Proton Therapy. Even though Radiation Oncologists have better control over where Proton Therapy releases the highest amount of energy, small amounts of radiation will still get absorbed by normal tissue.

Common Side Effects Of Proton Therapy Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss around the area of your body being treated
  • Localised skin redness
  • Soreness around treatment area

These side effects generally overlap with those from traditional Radiotherapy although research suggests the incidence of such side effects is reduced with Proton Therapy.

It’s important to note that Proton Therapy in Singapore is not more effective than traditional Radiotherapy. Clinical studies have not conclusively proved that one treatment modality is better at treating cancers than the other. 

Instead, the real strength of Proton Therapy comes from the technology that allows it to deliver radiation doses more accurately to the target areas while sparing the surrounding tissue much more effectively. This makes it a much safer alternative to conventional Radiation Therapy treatments.

As a Radiation Oncologist in Singapore for over two decades, Dr Johann Tang has experience in treating patients with both traditional Radiotherapy and Proton Therapy. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and set up an appointment with our clinic.

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Dr Johann Tang

Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist
Medical Director of ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
MBBS (Aust), FRANZCR (Radiation Oncology)

Dr Johann Tang is the Senior Consultant and Medical Director of ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd. at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and an Assistant Professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Singapore.  Dr Tang’s journey towards being a radiation oncologist in Singapore started with him obtaining his medical degree from the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 1998 and completing his house officer training at the Hunter Area Health Service before returning to Singapore to complete his National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces Medical Corps. Thereafter, he did his specialty training in Radiation Oncology in Singapore at the National University Hospital (NUH). After obtaining his fellowship from the Royal Australian College of Radiologists (FRANZCR) in 2007, Dr Tang underwent breast brachytherapy fellowships at the University of Wisconsin as well as prostate brachytherapy, skin, and paediatric fellowships at the Peter Maccallum Cancer Institute, Australia. In 2021, Dr Tang underwent a fellowship at the New York Proton Centre with Dr Charles Simone in head and neck, re-irradiation, paediatric, prostate, and lung cancers.

Why Choose Dr Johann Tang

Dr Johann Tang is an experienced radiation oncologist and cancer doctor who aims to deliver the highest level of care to his patients, especially when it comes to radiation therapy and cancer treatment. As a cancer specialist in Singapore, he is dedicated to understanding each patient’s condition and providing holistic, customised care that is both effective and compassionate. With ethics and empathy at the core of our practice, we strive to understand your individual needs and provide care that is compassionate and responsive.

Experienced Radiation Oncologist

Dr Johann Tang is a highly experienced radiation oncologist and cancer specialist in Singapore, with over 20 years of experience treating various cancers in both adults and children and several accolades to his name. Prior to entering private practice, where he is currently a senior consultant and medical director. Dr Tang was at NUH for 18 years, from 2001 to 2019. Dr Tang spearheaded and built up the breast brachytherapy (Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation APBI), outpatient interstitial image-guided cervical brachytherapy, and paediatric radiation therapy services at NUH to provide an array of the latest and best cancer treatment options for patients. As a cancer doctor, Dr Tang is also passionately involved in research, having authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and won several research prizes.

Evidence-based Treatments

Dr Johann Tang and his team utilise technology that has proven to be effective in cancer treatment. Having decades of experience in treating and researching the disease has enabled Dr Tang to remain current and on top of best practices and novel techniques, providing his patients with full assurance that they are receiving the most effective treatment available.

Patient-centered Care

Dr Johann Tang’s patients are his top priority. He journeys with them from diagnosis until the completion of treatment. With Dr Tang, all patients can be fully assured that their clinical needs and well-being are attended to. Dr Tang is also passionately involved in research, having authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and winning several research prizes.

"I guarantee my very best expertise delivered with compassion and dignity as we journey TOGETHER to BEAT this dreaded illness."

- Dr Johann Tang

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Contact Dr Johann Tang

ME Novena Specialist Group
@ Mt. Elizabeth Novena Hospital

  • 38 Irrawaddy Road #08-36/7/8/9 Singapore 329563
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
@ Proton Therapy SG

  • Amnios Building 1 Biopolis Drive, #01-01 Singapore 138622
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am – 1:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group
@ Mt Alvernia

  • 820 Thomson Road, #06-65/66 Mount Alvernia Hospital Medical Centre Block D Singapore 574623
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
@ Farrer Park Hospital

  • 1 Farrer Park Station Road, #11-01 Connexion Singapore 217562
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed