Katonah Man Undergoes Proton Therapy To Fight Rare Cancer

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Katonah resident Noel Pagan stands with his treatment team. In August 2012, doctors found a rare tumor at the base of Pagan's skull. He has since undergone 41 proton therapy treatments and is expected to make a full recovery. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Melanie Sollid-Penton

KATONAH, N.Y. -- Katonah resident Noel Pagan received a one-in-a-million diagnosis last summer: he learned that the sinus pain he thought was from allergies was actually clival chordoma, a rare type of tumor that develops at the base of the skull.

Now, after 41 outpatient treatments of proton therapy, Pagan said in a press release that he hopes to make other patients aware of this lesser-known form of radiation therapy.

Studies have shown proton therapy to be effective in treating many types of tumors in sensitive areas of the body, including brain, central nervous system, gastrointestinal, head and neck, lung and prostate, as well as sarcomas and many pediatric cancers, according to the release from ProCure Proton Therapy.

Pagan underwent surgery to remove the tumor at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where his treatment team recommended proton therapy as a follow-up treatment, the press release said.

“Clival chordomas occur near the base of the brain and can be difficult to treat with standard radiation therapy,” said radiation oncologist Dr. Oren Cahlon, medical director of ProCure New Jersey in the press release. 

ProCure, Pagan's treatment center in Somerset, N.J., is the first company to develop a network of proton therapy centers across the U.S., according to the release.

In researching proton therapy, Pagan and his wife Tracy found an online video that features Frank Mackinson, a cancer survivor and the first patient treated at ProCure New Jersey, the release said.

“Seeing someone else go through the process – putting the mask on his face, lying down on the table for treatment – and experiencing minimal side effects was encouraging,”  Pagan said in the release.  Pagan underwent the treatments from mid-November to January.

“Knowing that another man underwent treatment and is doing well was hugely important for me," said Pagan in the release. Now, he hopes he can use his knowledge about the therapy to "pay it forward."

Pagan said he looks forward to a full recovery and returning to work and to his two children with renewed energy.

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