In previous posts, I talked about proton therapy as a new-old form of treatment for cancer, and described my experience visiting one of the newest and most technologically advanced proton therapy centers in the country.

One of the most common uses of proton therapy is for men with prostate cancer. In fact, this type of treatment has been so common and effective for prostate cancer that one cancer survivor has created a support group and website that brings together men who have been diagnosed with the disease and who have chosen proton therapy for their treatment.

The Brotherhood of the Balloon (BOB) was formed in December 2000 by several patients who were treated with protons at Loma Linda University Medical Center. It has around 4000 members from all 50 U.S. States and 25 different countries, and support is provided by Loma Linda University Medical Center.

The BOB “maintains a private database, which includes members' vital statistics, along with pretreatment cancer stage, follow-up PSA records and other information.” Its purpose “is to provide an aftercare communications forum, where members share information on any subject related to their treatment, the healing process, and preventing a recurrence. Members also promote prostate cancer prevention at public forums and willingly share their experience of Proton Treatment with others who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, as a way of helping them decide among prostate cancer treatment options.” Visitors can access the site to learn more about proton therapy and to communicate with members to gain information about their personal experiences.

So what is the balloon all about? During treatment, the proton beam is focused on the prostate gland and a margin around the gland to help kill any cancer that may have escaped the gland. But the margin may include part of the rectum, which is next to the prostate. So in order to protect the outside wall of the rectum from radiation, a small balloon is inserted into the rectum and inflated with water prior to each treatment. Therefore, this fraternity has the balloon as the common factors for all its members!

The founder of the brotherhood, Robert “Bob” Marckini, has recently written a book entitled You Can Beat Prostate Cancer And You Don't Need Surgery To Do It. Following years of his own research, and talking with many doctors and many more patients, Bob explains, in layman's terms, what every man needs to know about taking control of his own prostate cancer diagnosis and difficult treatment decisions. He describes all major treatment options with their pros and cons, especially proton therapy, and talks about his journey with cancer and what he has learned from it.