About Proton Therapy
Proton therapy is an advanced cancer treatment that is used to treat tumors. This highly specialized form of radiation therapy is available only at 39 proton centers nationwide.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center is the first in the region to provide lifesaving proton therapy in Kansas City to cancer patients. Our proton therapy center is the only one of its kind in the surrounding states of Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Arkansas.
What is proton therapy?
Who can have proton therapy?
Most solid, localized tumors can be treated with proton therapy. This includes tumors in the central nervous system and lymphatic system, as well as recurring tumors. Proton therapy can be used to treat a variety of cancers, and is often used for:
- Bone cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Eye cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pediatric cancer
- Prostate cancer
Because research on proton therapy is ongoing, medical experts are working to identify additional cancers that may benefit from proton therapy.
How does proton therapy work?
Proton therapy works by delivering highly targeted radiation to a tumor. During treatment, protons move through a beam transport system and enter the body at a low radiation dose. Protons then stop at the tumor and match its shape and volume or depth and direct their cancer-fighting energy at the tumor, thereby sparing healthy tissue.
After being delivered to the exact tumor site, proton radiation has a very short life. You can leave the treatment room after receiving proton therapy without any risk of radiation exposure to others.
Benefits of proton therapy
One of the greatest benefits of proton therapy is that it conforms to the shape of your tumor. This allows for more effective treatment and also helps your surrounding organs and tissues avoid unnecessary radiation.
Additional benefits of proton therapy include:
- Focused, precise radiation
- Less damage to nearby healthy tissue
- Fewer short- and long-term side effects
- Lower risk of secondary cancers
- Increased quality of life
Proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation therapy for cancerous tumors currently available. More than 800 clinical studies have been published on proton therapy. Recent research published in the journal JAMA Oncology found that people who have proton therapy are two-thirds less likely to experience side effects requiring hospitalization than people who have traditional X-ray or photon radiation.
What happens during proton therapy?
Prior to your treatment, you will receive a thorough evaluation to ensure you are a good candidate for proton therapy. You will also work with your care team to plan and prepare for proton therapy. This helps ensure that the proton beam reaches the exact location in your body where it's needed most.
During proton therapy treatment, your radiation specialist will position you in a device that will help you stay still. Information from your proton therapy planning sessions is used to make sure that your prescribed proton therapy dose is delivered accurately.
The actual delivery of radiation treatment takes only a few minutes. However, your total appointment time may last 30-45 minutes or more depending on the size, number and location of your tumor(s). Once complete, you are able to return to your daily routine. You will not give off radiation after treatment and are not considered radioactive.
Proton therapy nurse navigator
The University of Kansas Cancer Center opened the region’s first Proton Therapy Center in April and began treating patients in late May. By providing proton therapy here, our cancer patients can remain closer to their home, family and much-needed support systems.
Our Proton Therapy Center provides an on-site nurse navigator to help guide patients, both young and old, through the treatment process. To learn more about the role of nurse navigator, we visited with Sara Soliman, RN, proton therapy nurse navigator at the cancer center.
As the nurse navigator for the Proton Therapy Center, I am the glue between the many parts that work together to get the patient through our doors and into proton treatment. My 17 years as a pediatric oncology nurse are invaluable as I work on-site at the Proton Therapy Center and am one of the first touchpoints for the patient and their family. I work behind the scenes to gather patient information and medical records, provide reassurance and comfort to the patient and their family and help the physicians understand what the patient needs. I cross multiple care settings to help connect patients to their treatment teams in a timely manner and link them with appropriate support services, such as social work and financial counselors, to help resolve barriers to care. Above all, my goal is to provide highly personalized and compassionate care to our patients and their families.
I am the single point of contact for coordination of care and collaboration between providers and teams for each patient receiving proton therapy or being considered for proton therapy. This helps ensure continuity of care, including a thorough understanding of how our patients are doing across all care areas, even if we see them through a telehealth visit.
Why choose us
As an NCI-designated cancer center, we have renowned cancer experts who bring vast knowledge and experience to help patients conquer cancer. That expertise also exists in using proton therapy as a tool to help our patients fight cancer.
Providing this innovative treatment here gives us unlimited opportunities to continue research and clinical trials on proton therapy for new and expanded uses in the future. Proton therapy benefits adult and pediatric patients alike and further advances our research and education missions as one of the nation’s leading cancer centers.
Start your path today.
Your journey to health starts here. Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.