Setting Expectations for Proton Therapy Treatment
From the moment you walk into The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Proton Therapy Center, you will be surrounded by support, compassion and leading-edge expert care providers.
Our disease-dedicated cancer specialists work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to meet your individual needs, because we understand that no 2 people experience cancer the same. Your personal care team may include physician specialists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, dietitians and navigation experts. These individuals work closely together to ensure you receive exceptional treatment every step of the way.
Here, cancer experts who are nationally and internationally recognized bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help patients prevail over cancer. These highly skilled specialists from one of the country’s leading National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers work in tandem to offer exceptional treatment for adult and pediatric cancers.
Evaluation and consultation
After contacting the cancer center, your initial meeting will be with our nurse navigator. The nurse navigator will gather your medical information and images, talk with physicians about the best treatment options for your particular diagnosis and schedule you for a consultation with our multidisciplinary team of specialists. In addition to a radiation oncologist, the team may involve a social worker, nutritionist, child life specialist, among others.
During the consultation, we will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to fit your specific needs. Additional imaging may be necessary. The cancer treatment plan we develop may include proton therapy alone or in combination with other cancer treatments.
After your consultation with our multidisciplinary team, a CT (computed tomography) simulation is the first step in the planning process for all patients receiving proton therapy. To do this, we will position you on a table that will be used during your treatment. Proper positioning during treatment is critical to ensure that the proton beam reaches the precise spot in your body where it’s needed.
Once you are comfortably positioned, we will take a 3D image of your tumor. The images and data we collect during simulation allow us to reconstruct your tumor and nearby organs/tissues to ensure accurate and precise dose targeting to your tumor. We will then apply marks on your skin to outline the exact treatment field.
Like other forms of cancer treatment, proton therapy can cause side effects. While proton therapy is highly precise and less damaging to healthy tissue, some side effects may still occur. Any aftereffects you experience will depend on the part of your body that is being treated and the dose of proton therapy you receive.
Proton therapy side effects typically develop over time, with minimal initial impact. Your physician will discuss specific side effects depending on your exact diagnosis and treatment area.
During proton therapy
Generally, you will receive proton therapy 5 days a week over several weeks. For some conditions, proton therapy may be shorter.
To ensure treatment accuracy, we continually monitor and sometimes need to recalculate the dose of proton therapy you receive. This may require you have a weekly CT scan to determine changes in weight or tumor size and shape. Such changes can affect the proton beam's ability to precisely target the tumor.
To receive the treatment, you will be positioned on a table as you were during the simulation. Your body must be in the same precise position for each treatment.
Proton therapy is administered with a machine called a gantry. The 75-ton gantry is 3 stories tall and built into a large concrete casing. It rotates around you, precisely directing the proton beam at your tumor. You will hear the machine when it turns on and delivers the dose of proton therapy, but you won’t feel the treatment.