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Young eye cancer patient learns about the science behind proton therapy

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Aaron325.jpgWhen 17-year-old Aaron Miranda noticed his right eye drooping in his senior picture, he figured it was just the camera or a mistake the photographer made while editing the picture. But as time went on, it became clear that it wasn't just the photo. An MRI and a CT scan showed that a lesion was growing beside his right eye. Aaron had eye cancer.

After a biopsy, Aaron was diagnosed with high grade carcinoma with glandular and squamous differentiation of the right lacrimal gland. He and his mother traveled from their home in San Rafael, Cali., to MD Anderson for six weeks of chemotherapy and proton therapy.

Aaron had never heard of proton therapy before his cancer diagnosis. This type of cancer treatment uses radiation therapy to target specific areas and is relatively new. In fact, Aaron was MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center's 5,000th patient.When it opened in 2006, the center was one of only three in the nation and the first of its kind integrated within a comprehensive cancer hospital. Today, the center remains one of only 13 proton therapy centers nationally, and one of the few to use the even more innovative form of proton therapy known as intensity modulated proton therapy or IMPT.

When Aaron missed the start of his high school baseball team's season, a nurse invited him to come to her son's game. Aaron even lent a hand to the little league team, acting as a base coach and calling out plays. The team thanked him with an autographed baseball.

A behind the scenes look at proton therapy treatment
Aaron also formed a special bond with his medical team because he was so interested in learning more about the type of treatment he received. He plans to study physics and often asked employees questions about the proton accelerator.

In early March, Aaron completed his treatment and prepared to go back home to California. His baseball team had been holding a place for him. After Aaron rang the gong, signifying the end of his treatment, he got a behind the scenes tour of the Proton Therapy Center.

"I just want to really learn how the world works and how the universe works," Aaron says.

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