Medical Director of the Proton Therapy Unit of the Navarra University Clinic | Javier Aristu: “Nowadays medicine is teamwork. No one decides on their own”

What benefits does proton therapy provide?

–It is a personalized radiotherapy, a very precise treatment is done and a radiation dose suit tailored for the patient. It is radiotherapy a la carte. The difference with photons is that with protons we exclude most of the healthy tissue around the tumor and avoid complications in the medium and long term, which in many cases can be severe.

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What benefits does this produce?

–In people who have undergone conventional radiotherapy, excess mortality increases when they are adults due to heart and lung problems.

After a start in a pandemic, do you expect that with the end of the restrictions, patients will increase?

-We had quite a bit of difficulty at the beginning due to the issue of mobility, although for cancer there were many more facilities with permits. That is why we were able to start with proton therapy in the midst of a pandemic and so far we have treated 365 patients. We have a full Unit, with a day that goes from 8 in the morning to 10 at night and we are looking to install the second gantry and the second room, which would not require much more investment than at the beginning because the engine is already installed.

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The Unit requires interdisciplinary work.

–If there is no teamwork between physicists, other doctors and other specialties, this could not work. Nowadays, medicine is team medicine, multidisciplinary, and no one makes a decision on their own. We are fully integrated into the University Cancer Center, which began operating a few years ago, and proton therapy is one more tool of the center.

They mainly treat pediatric patients. How is?

-I have always treated many children, but here more. I say that they are great little patients, it is a joy to work with them and with their families, to be able to help them and have the satisfaction that in a few years they will have a normal life, and they will be able to study, work… and everything. this without consequences. And that seems to me to be a precious thing and for which it is worth being a doctor on these occasions.

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