First teenager completes proton therapy in San Diego

SAN DIEGO - Natalie Wright, 17, was all smiles as she and her father John left the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, a place both have been coming to for six weeks.  

"Natalie had a tumor in a very critical area – in her brain stem – where it simply could not be operated on," said Dr. Andrew Chang, Natalie's physician.

Unlike conventional radiation therapy, proton therapy sends a narrow beam of radiation into the tumor.  

"I felt great afterward and I was able to do stuff," Natalie said.

She has been fighting the tumor since she was 2 years old.

"After she had her first surgery, the tumor grew to be twice as large a year later," said her father.  

The center in San Diego opened in February of this year. Natalie was the first pediatric patient to undergo treatment. Emma Griffith, 16, is the second.  

"I don't have all the side effects I had with chemo and other treatments," Emma said.

The treatment, according to Chang, is not for everyone. He said it really depends on the kind of tumor, the person's age and more importantly, where the tumor is located.

The Wrights are headed back home to Provo, Utah. The Scripps Proton Therapy Center in the Miramar area is only the third of its kind west of the Rockies.

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