Adapted Situation Page

Mr. Wegley's father experienced some swelling under his chin around his jawbone and he experienced some numbness and pain in his face that did not go away for several weeks. When the pain began to increase, he was convinced to go to the hospital for some tests. He had an MRI that showed a growth in the area of swelling around his salivary gland and, after a biopsy, was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer and has been recommended for low-energy radiation therapy. Our physics class has decided to study the pros and cons of different types of therapy and has decided to direct our learning of physics concepts to better help us understand the potential success of cancer therapies.

The class has decided to put together an information search summarizing their information on the situation and will present the results of their conclusions to the class and will post their information search and conclusions on the Web.

The class has changed the project by including another high school class in the research and conclusions and has decided to be information providers for an 8th grade middle school class studying a similar situation.

The class has further defined the project as the project has progressed and has decided to find out that my dad has Stage II salivary gland cancer, meaning that the cancer in his case is 4 centimeters in diameter and has spread into the tissue around the salivary gland into tissue, but not into the skin, the bone or the lymph nodes. The class also was given the fact that the cancer is a high grade cancer meaning that it is a fast growing cancer.

Many types of therapy have been found to be potential "best" solutions. They include:

The use of drugs with the radiation therapy to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation (radiosensitization) that is being tested in clinical trials is being studied by the class also. The class is studying the reasons these therapies effect cancer. An example of this that has been brought out by the class is neutron therapy.

With neutron therapy, neutrons are created using protons that collide with a target. This collision creates a shower of created particles (E = mc2), some are charged particles (protons, muons, pi-plus, pi-minus, electrons, positrons, etc.), and some are neutral particles (neutrinos and protons). The charged particles are steered out of the way and the neutrons (the neutrinos don't interact strongly with matter) are pointed at the patient; there are lead shields in all areas the neutrons are not wanted, and the neutrons strike the patient and interact with nucleides within the patient. These interactions create showers of their own that radiate the tumor with energy and kill cells within the tumor. Neutron energy and lead blocking are used to control the amount showering and the depth of the radiation. This type of radiation allows tumors within the body to be showered with radiation while not radiating the sensitive skin and tissue before the tissue.

The project continues to evolve and this statement continues to evolve.

Links to Links - Project Page - Timeline/Assessments

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Created: July 23, 1996 - Last Updated: July 23, 1999