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Proton beam radiotherapy exposes healthy tissue to stray radiation emanating from the treatment unit and secondary radiation produced within the patient. These exposures provide no known benefit and may increase a patient's risk of developing a radiogenic second cancer. The aim of this study was to explore strategies to reduce stray radiation dose to a patient receiving a 76 Gy proton beam treatment for cancer of the prostate. The whole-body effective dose from stray radiation, E, was estimated using detailed Monte Carlo simulations of a passively scattered proton treatment unit and an anthropomorphic phantom. The predicted value of E was 567 mSv, of which 320 mSv was attributed to leakage from the treatment unit; the remainder arose from scattered radiation that originated within the patient. Modest modifications of the treatment unit reduced E by 212 mSv. Surprisingly, E from a modified passive-scattering device was only slightly higher (109 mSv) than from a nozzle with no leakage, e.g., that which may be approached with a spot-scanning technique. These results add to the body of evidence supporting the suitability of passively scattered proton beams for the treatment of prostate cancer, confirm that the effective dose from stray radiation was not excessive, and, importantly, show that it can be substantially reduced by modest enhancements to the treatment unit. © 2008 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.

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Physics in Medicine and Biology

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