Peter Dunbar, Esophageal Patient

patient-peter.jpgWhen Peter Dunbar of Oxford, Maryland was told his esophageal cancer was back, he knew traditional radiation therapy would not be recommended, nor was further surgery possible having had a partial esophagectomy three years earlier.

Traditional radiation therapy would not be recommended because he received radiation for esophageal cancer once already, and the body’s healthy cells can only tolerate a small amount of radiation over a lifetime. Those who have received radiation therapy to treat a certain site, such as the esophagus, are often not encouraged to receive it a second time in that location.

Peter heard about proton therapy and asked his oncologist if it could be right for him. His oncologist called William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO, the Isadore and Fannie Schneider Foxman Chair and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the Executive Director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC).

Within two days, Peter met Dr. Regine and made the decision to be treated by him at MPTC.

“Peter was an excellent candidate for proton therapy,” Dr. Regine says. “Since his esophagus had already undergone radiation, it was critical to use proton therapy for his treatment because it limits the amount of radiation to his previously exposed healthy tissues near his tumor, including his lungs and heart.”  In addition, recent publications authored by MPTC faculty demonstrate favorable outcomes for the use of protons in patients with esophageal cancer. 

Since his home is an hour and a half from the center, Peter chose to stay in Baltimore during treatment. The MPTC concierge services team helped him find lodging at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, which could be a story all to itself.

Peter is retired and spent the summer enjoying activities in his small town by the water, such as sailing, crabbing and sitting in the backyard with a good book. The concierge team helped him find attractions to enjoy in the city, such as the B&O Railroad Museum, as well as the Walters Gallery and the Baltimore Cathedral, all of which are just short walks from the center and Hope Lodge.

Peter says that on his first day of treatment at MPTC, one of the radiation therapists told him that he would find that this place was different from any other treatment centers he had experienced.

“He was quite right,” Peter says. “All the staff have been excellent. Many places don’t take the time to have the level of interaction that this center has.”  This was particularly important since his wife, Nancy, was undergoing significant chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer at the same time.  As the staff became aware of this, “…it was like we were both were patients under the caring wings of the center staff.”

Peter’s advice for other cancer patients is: “The major thing is to be positive about it…Take a deep breath and realize that this will just be a memory later on.”

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