Hampton, Va. - African-American men lead the world in prostate cancer incidences, according to the American Cancer Society's 'Cancer Facts and Figures 2009'.
Hampton University is addressing this and other cancer-related minority health disparities with the most precise form of cancer treatment to date. The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute (HUPTI) is the largest of its kind in the world and when its doors opened in August 2010, became only the eighth facility in the country to offer proton therapy.
Proton therapy is able to target tumors with millimeter accuracy, sparing surrounding healthy tissue resulting in reduced side effects for the patient.
"In July of 2009, I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer," said Alfred Scott of Hampton, Va. "My doctor scheduled me for radiation treatments. However, since so many of my friends and family members experienced disturbing side effects from radiation I wanted to seek an alternative treatment."
Scott said he was watching the local news and learned about proton therapy and that Hampton University was opening a proton facility.
"I went to the internet to do extensive research about proton therapy and everyone spoke so positive about their experience and about the treatment, that I decided that proton therapy was the best choice for me," said Scott. "I am very happy with my decision."
Scott wanted to be one of the first patients treated when HUPTI opened. "I told my doctor I was going to wait until this facility opened up. I contacted HUPTI for a consultation and became one of the first ones to be treated.
"My appointments were only thirty minutes each day, and the actual treatment time lasted only a minute long. I finished my eight weeks of treatment in November of 2010. I have not experienced any after effects over a year and a half after treatment. I didn't even have to alter my daily routine due to any complications during treatment."
The average treatment time is two minutes or less, five days a week, from one to nine weeks.
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HU's Historic Cancer Efforts
Scott spent 27 years in the U.S. Army Intelligence and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer III. He was also the program manager for Information Security at Ft. Monroe, retiring after 18 years. These days Scott spends his time in the garden, in his wood shop and being an advocate for proton therapy.
Image: Alfred Scott, of Hampton, Va., shows off the mold that was used during his treatment. Since proton therapy is very precise, patients need to lie in the same position each time, with the help of their mold.
"I tell as many people I can about this treatment because proton therapy gave me a new lease on life," said Scott, who celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary just days after completing his treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans suffer disproportionately from almost every major cancer site. In addition, the Prostate Cancer Foundation states that one out of every four men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
Located in Hampton, Va, in the Mid-Atlantic region, HUPTI is currently treating prostate, brain, pediatric, breast, lung, head and neck, GI and other cancers in four treatment rooms. "This is an exciting time for us as we are commissioning the fifth room which should be ready by late summer, said Cynthia Keppel, scientific and technical director, HUPTI. To commission each room, Keppel and her team run a series of tests and safety measures, before a treatment room can open for treatment.
HUPTI's staff has over 100 years of combined clinical proton therapy experience. "I've been to every type of medical facility you can think of, but HUPTI stands apart from all of them.
"Being one of the first patients at HUPTI has changed my outlook on life, said Scott, who recently turned 77. "And the best part about it, my PSA went from a 5 to 0.5."
Despite the economy, HU was able to raise the capital necessary to bring the $225 million project to fruition. President William R. Harvey has deemed HU's efforts as easing human misery and saving lives.
For more information on HUPTI, please visit hamptonproton.org or call 877.251.6838.