Secondary bowel cancer: Eric Day was treated for secondary cancer after surviving bowel cancer
Former dentist Eric Day, 79, from Andover, first developed bowel cancer in 2012, which was at the time treated successfully with surgery and chemotherapy.
In August last year Eric, received the devastating news that he’d developed a secondary tumour in the lumbar region anterior to his spine, the size of a small orange.
Because of the severe risk of damage to nearby vital organs, surgery, chemotherapy or traditional radiotherapy were not realistic options for treatment.
The only choice left available to Eric in Britain was palliative treatment to relieve his constant pain.
Eric refused to accept the prognosis and instead began researching alternatives, which took him to the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic.
Following scans in May this year, Eric says he’s ‘ecstatic’ to have been given the all clear while revealing he’s also now completely ‘pain free’.
Secondary bowel cancer: Eric Day was treated in Prague
“It’s four months since I took so much as a single paracetamol tablet,” said Eric.
“I am pain free, eating properly again and have regained the lost weight.
“My ability to do things has returned to normal. My oncologist, Dr Shanmugasundaram Ramkumar, has seen me again to give the result of a recent positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which shows that the tumour has disappeared and there was no spread anywhere else.
“He said this was a ‘fantastic response’ and only routine monitoring would be needed for now.
“Needless to say, my wife and I were ecstatic.”
Eric said he hopes his story will encourage doctors to take more of an interest in proton beam radiotherapy.
“I would say to people facing what could be a terminal illness to think again, and if there is a tumour or tumours which can be targeted, to have discussions with an oncologist, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.”
Proton therapy – which is only made available to NHS patients in rare instances, typically involving child cancer patients – works by accelerating protons until they reach half the speed of light.
They are then targeted at cancer cells with pencil-point precision.
Unlike traditional radiotherapy using X-rays, proton therapy can home-in on the exact area to target, preserving healthy tissue in front of the tumour and preventing damage to the tissue behind it.
“The only treatment available for me in Britain was palliative to relieve the constant pain,” said Eric.
“Being a retired dental practitioner, I am somewhat inquisitive, so I did some research and found that the type of tumour in my lower back could possibly be suitable for proton beam therapy.
“My oncologist organised a PET scan very quickly and organised for transfer of all my clinical information to Proton Therapy Centre in Prague.
Proton beam therapy: Eric Day was treated at the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague
“Within a week the answer came back saying this form of treatment was definitely worth a try.”
Eric flew to Prague and had 24 ‘fractions’, or doses, of Proton Beam Therapy as an outpatient which was carried out each morning.
He said: “The process was painless and done in just a few minutes each time, so the rest of the day we were free to explore the beautiful city of Prague.
“The treatment related side effects were not bad at all. There were minor problems with the digestive system and tiredness increased later in the treatment, but these symptoms soon disappeared after returning to Britain.
“Towards the end of treatment I found that no further analgesics were necessary, which was remarkable, considering I had needed them day and night for months.
“I cannot praise Dr Ramkumar who referred me to Proton Therapy Center enough and the same adulation goes to the doctor in charge of my case in Prague.
“I am also extremely grateful for the constant support received from my wife who never gave up hope.”
Secondary bowel cancer: Eric said he is now pain free
Dr Jiri Kubes, medical director at Proton Therapy Center, Prague, said Proton Beam Therapy is effective at targeting hard-to-reach tumours.
He said: “While the NHS acknowledges the benefits of Proton Beam Therapy and is building its own centres, many people are still turned down for the treatment because of the very limited indication criteria.
“There’s still a long way to go before patients in the UK have widespread access to it – as Eric’s case has so succinctly proved.
“But the general public is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of Proton Beam Therapy.
“It’s highly effective in treating tumours in extremely sensitive areas of the human body and it has also been proved that proton therapy reduces the risk of secondary cancers by more than half, compared with traditional radiotherapy.”
Insurer Western Provident Association (WPA) has reached an agreement with the Proton Therapy Centre to allow eligible private customers with certain types of cancer to travel to the Czech Republic for treatment.