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FAQ

Can anyone undergo heavy ion radiotherapy?

Yes. Anyone can qualify to undergo the therapy.
However, heavy ion radiotherapy is a form of local treatment, and is restricted to patients who are judged to be eligible from their cancer type, stage, and so on. Please be aware that heavy ion radiotherapy is not something that can always be received. The eligibility conditions for heavy ion radiotherapy differ to some extent between facilities, but can be considered to be almost the same.
Our counseling clinic describes these eligibility conditions in detail.

(Reference: Introduction of the related facilities and counseling clinics)

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Can patients from overseas undergo heavy ion radiotherapy in Japan?

Yes, they can.
Many patients from overseas have arrived in Japan to undergo heavy ion radiotherapy. When a patient from overseas wishes to undergo heavy ion radiotherapy in Japan, we recommend that, before anything else, the patient should consult Medical Excellence JAPAN* so that the necessary procedures can be smoothly conducted before the medical examination. Medical Excellence JAPAN introduces the patient to an international medical coordinator with an extensive track record in matching many patients with medical institutions, and supporting these patients during their stay in Japan. The Inquiries page on the English version of this website is linked to the inquiry form of Medical Excellence JAPAN.
For the flow from an initial inquiry to arrival in Japan, and the services of the international medical coordinator, please see the International medical support page as well.

*Medical Excellence JAPAN is a general incorporated association established with the support of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Japan) in 2011. Medical Excellence JAPAN meets various needs of people from overseas who wish to receive medical services in Japan.

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Are all types of cancer targeted in the therapy?

Yes. Almost all types of cancer (solid cancers) are targeted.
In principle, however, heavy ion radiotherapy is appropriate to treat cancers in which the lesion is still localized. Heavy particle beams are locally concentrated at a high dose in a safe manner. They can be expected to have an excellent therapeutic effect even for patients who have diseases resistant to conventional radiotherapy, and for those who have a focal lesion of an advanced cancer that is difficult to treat by surgery. However, heavy ion radiotherapy is not useful for the treatment of hematological cancer or lymphoma.

(Reference: Benefits of heavy ion radiotherapy)

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If a cancer has metastasized, can it no longer be treated by heavy ion radiotherapy?

Such a cancer cannot be treated in many cases, but the therapy is indicated in some cases.
For example, heavy ion radiotherapy can be indicated if the type of cancer makes it possible to expect that treatment of the primary site will lead to improvement in the patient's QOL and prognosis even though the cancer has metastasized; however, the patient is requested to consent to the meaning of the therapy in advance.
If there is only one metastatic lesion in a specific organ or site after the primary cancer is successfully treated, the metastatic lesion itself may be a target of heavy ion radiotherapy.
(In principle, metastatic cancer lesions are not individually treated with heavy particle beams. Cancers in which distant metastases have already spread extensively are not targeted by this therapy.)

(Reference: Differences from conventional radiotherapy)

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I previously underwent radiotherapy. Can I receive heavy ion radiotherapy?

Whether you can undergo heavy ion radiotherapy depends on the case.
In principle, sites that have been previously irradiated cannot be targeted by heavy ion radiotherapy. This is because the exposure of previous radiotherapy sites to heavy particle beams is very likely to cause a severe adverse reaction.
However, you may be able to undergo heavy ion radiotherapy if the previous dose was relatively low or if it can be judged that the heavy particle beam irradiation will cause no severe adverse reactions; however, you are requested to fully consider in advance whether or not the retreatment would be beneficial for you. Please be aware that whether or not you can undergo the therapy depends on the case.

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What are the characteristics of heavy ion radiotherapy?

Heavy ion radiotherapy has a high dose concentration and large biological effect (efficacy).
Firstly, the dose concentration can be enhanced by positioning a diseased part in the location of the Bragg peak (the peak of the imparted dose), which is a characteristic of a charged particle beam. Moreover, because heavy particles, which are heavier than protons, are very likely to travel in a straight line in the body, they are unlikely to bounce off other atoms in the body. This characteristic makes it possible to irradiate tumors adjacent to vital organs.
In addition, the biological effect of a heavy particle beam is large: approximately two to three times larger than that of conventional radiations and proton beams. Owing to this characteristic, heavy ion radiotherapy can be completed in a shorter time, and can be expected to exert a therapeutic effect on radiation-resistant cancer that is difficult to treat with any conventional radiation.

(Reference: What is heavy ion radiotherapy? and Differences from conventional radiotherapy)

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How long does it take to complete the therapy?

Characteristically, heavy ion radiotherapy is much shorter than ordinary radiotherapy.
For example, the lungs or liver can be treated in a short time of one day for one treatment or two days for two treatments (estimated), and treatment of the head and neck, bone and soft tissue, prostate, and other sites requires not more than three weeks for twelve treatments (estimated). Thus, heavy ion radiotherapy enables the patient to return to society early.

(Reference: Benefits of heavy ion radiotherapy)

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Does the patient have to stay in the hospital?

The patient can go to the hospital regularly as an outpatient, because heavy ion radiotherapy itself puts no strain on the body.

(Reference: Flow of the therapy)

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How much does it cost?

Heavy ion radiotherapy carries a uniform cost of about 4 million yen, irrespective of the site of cancer or the frequency of irradiation. There are additional separate charges for scans, hospitalization, drugs, and so on. Patients from overseas who hope to receive heavy ion radiotherapy can obtain rough estimates of the therapy cost through their international medical coordinator.
For details, please inquire via the Inquiries page.

(Reference: Cost of the therapy)

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Does the therapy have side effects (cause adverse reactions)?

The side effects of heavy ion radiotherapy, if any, can be considered to be much lighter than those of regular radiotherapy.
However, depending on the site treated, it cannot be said that there are no adverse reactions at all. In addition, symptoms due to adverse reactions and their degree of severity depend on the site of the cancer, the irradiation direction, the therapeutic dose, individual differences, and so on.
Therefore, the doctor will provide the patient with documents and the like which provide detailed explanations as to potential adverse reactions, countermeasures against them, and so on, and the patient is to understand these matters well before providing informed consent to undergo the therapy.

(Reference: What is heavy ion radiotherapy?)

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How long does it take to complete a single treatment?

The treatment time depends on the treatment site. Most of the treatment time is spent on preparatory work: determination of the irradiation site, and fixing the position of the body. The irradiation time itself is estimated at approximately one to three minutes. A single treatment takes approximately fifteen to thirty minutes in total.

(Reference: Benefits of heavy ion radiotherapy)

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Does the patient feel pain and/or heat due to the therapy?

No. The irradiation itself causes no pain or heat. However, during the irradiation or for some time afterward, if the skin or mucosa is irradiated, the patient may feel temporary soreness and/or heat due to inflammation. These symptoms can be alleviated with a drug such as an ointment.

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Does the therapy cause hair loss?

Radiation (such as a heavy particle beam) affects only the irradiated area: irradiation of the chest or abdomen cannot cause loss of hair on the head. If radiation passes through an area with hair during head or neck cancer treatment, there may be temporary hair loss in that area only.

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Please tell me about the flow of the therapy.

Please see Flow of the therapy.

(Reference: Flow of the therapy)

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Inquiries

Please click here to inquire about heavy ion radiotherapy.

Inquiries