Edinburgh man John Carson is one of first in the world to have prostate cancer treated with proton beam therapy

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A prostate cancer patient from Edinburgh is one of the first in the world to be treated with a new delivery technique for proton beam therapy, a new specialised form of radiotherapy.

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John Carson, a 73 year-old chartered civil engineer, was treated with the proton beam to heal his prostate cancer in a process known as ‘hypofractionation.’

Mr Carson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June after he attended an appointment at the capital’s Western General Hospital.

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John CarsonJohn Carson
John Carson

He was put on a year’s course of hormone treatment to shrink the tumour, while also undergoing an intensive course of radiotherapy through the NHS which meant 21 daily visits and brachytherapy – an internal radiation therapy.

He was scheduled to begin radiotherapy in February 2022 but after having done his own research, he decided to opt for proton beam therapy instead.

"I did a lot of my own research – I was concerned about my quality of life after treatment,” he said.

“Because of where the prostate is situated, radiation can have a long-term impact on the bowel and rectum, causing issues such as incontinence and more.

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“I wasn’t convinced that this was my only option. When I learned about what proton beam therapy was I immediately wanted to know more, and initially thought it was something I’d have to travel abroad for.

“The fact I could just travel to Northumberland made it much easier.”

Mr Carson started proton beam treatment at the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Northumberland in September and returned for seven sessions over the course of just three weeks, compared to the conventional NHS method which consists of 37 sessions over seven and a half weeks, and he is now cancer free.

The technique works by delivering high doses of radiation per ‘fraction’ - using fewer daily fractions to vastly reduce the overall duration of treatment for patients.

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Due to the targeted nature of the proton beam, fewer healthy cells are damaged by the treatment and therefore need less time to repair.

The improved timescale of treatment could prove incredibly effective in combating the strain on cancer treatment services with the significant build-up of cancer cases brought on by Covid-19.

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