What to Expect from Proton Treatment

Experiencing Proton Therapy at Scripps

Every person’s needs, lifestyle, expectations and goals are different; no two conditions are the same. That’s why our team at Scripps Proton Therapy Center collaborates with medical oncologists to come up with an individualized cancer care plan for each patient, including the number of treatments.

Proton therapy may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. It may be a treatment prescribed following cancer surgery. The types of treatment used will depend on the type, stage and location of the disease or condition.

Preparing for proton radiation therapy at Scripps

If proton therapy is deemed a treatment option for your cancerous or non-cancerous condition, you can expect to spend approximately five to eight weeks undergoing treatment at the center. As part of your care, we work with you and your insurance company to determine your benefits and coverage.

To start, you will have several meetings with your own specialized team of radiation oncologists, radiologists, and physicists to create a personalized treatment plan. The medical team takes CT and/or MRI scans of the treatment area — imaging services are available on-site at the center for your convenience. The team uses computer modeling to formulate a proton treatment plan designed to deliver maximal radiation doses to the tumor while minimizing the radiation exposure to healthy surrounding tissues.

Watch the video to see what to expect before treatment begins

Undergoing treatment at Scripps Proton Therapy Center

Proton therapy is non-invasive, so treatment itself is typically painless. It may also be quick. Most types of cancer — and even non-cancerous conditions — can be treated in five to eight weeks with proton therapy.

In order to make you feel as comfortable as possible, you are assigned a patient care team that follows you every step of the way, including during treatment and in follow-up meetings to assess results and recovery progress.

To prepare for your radiation treatment, we conduct a dress rehearsal of your proton therapy treatment to check the positioning of the beam so that it is set in advance. Depending on the type of tumor, you are outfitted with a specially-designed body mold or mask used to position you during treatment.

While actual treatment time ranges from one to three minutes, patients can expect to be in the treatment room for a total of 30 minutes or less per session, depending on the tumor type, size, location and the patient’s health.

The proton beam can be delivered with accuracy of up to 1 millimeter, so it is important for technicians to carefully position the person receiving treatment. Full two-way video and audio are always on during treatments, allowing the medical team members and patients to communicate throughout the process.

Watch the video to see what to expect during treatment

What to expect after treatment

Because every treatment plan is different and based on each individual, every post-treatment plan is also personalized to meet your needs. Your Scripps Proton Therapy Center doctor will meet with you to discuss your post-treatment plan following proton therapy.

This plan will include a schedule of follow-up visits and any necessary tests, such as blood work or images. Your treatment, condition and any side effects that you may be experiencing will determine your follow-up schedule.

If traveling to the Scripps Proton Therapy Center for follow-up appointments is a hardship, patients have the option to return to their oncologist or primary care physician for post-treatment monitoring. Several of our alumni patients also keep in touch through informal gatherings or our Facebook page.

Find out if proton therapy is a treatment option for you or someone you love.