St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Proton therapy

    Proton therapy is a kind of radiation used to treat cancer. Like other types of radiation, proton therapy kills cancer cells and stops them from growing.

    Information

    Unlike other types of radiation therapy that use x-rays to destroy cancer cells, proton therapy uses a beam of special particles called protons. Doctors can better aim proton beams onto a tumor, so there is less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. This allows doctors to use a higher dose of radiation with proton therapy than they can use with x-rays.

    Proton therapy is used to treat cancers that have not spread. Because it causes less damage to healthy tissue, proton therapy is often used for cancers that are very close to critical parts of the body.

    Doctors may use proton therapy to treat the following types of cancer:

    • Brain (acoustic neuroma, childhood brain tumors)
    • Eye (ocular melanoma, retinoblastoma)
    • Head and neck
    • Lung
    • Spine (chordoma, chondrosarcoma)
    • Prostate

    Researchers are also studying whether proton therapy might be used to treat other noncancerous conditions, including macular degeneration.

    HOW IT WORKS

    Your health care provider will fit you with a special device that holds your body still during treatment. The actual device used depends on the location of your cancer. For example, patients with head cancers may be fitted for a special mask.

    Next, you will have a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to map out the exact area to be treated. During the scan, you will wear the device that helps you stay still. The radiation oncologist will use a computer to trace the tumor and outline the angles at which the proton beams will enter your body.

    Proton therapy is performed on an outpatient basis. The treatment takes a few minutes a day over a period of 6 to 7 weeks, depending on the type of cancer. Before the treatment begins, you will get into the device that will hold you still. The radiation therapist will take a few x-rays to fine-tune the treatment.

    You will be placed inside a donut-shaped device called a gantry. It will rotate around you and point the protons in the direction of the tumor. A machine called a synchrotron or cyclotron creates and speeds up the protons. Then the protons are removed from the machine and magnets direct them to the tumor.

    The technician will leave the room while you are having proton therapy. The treatment should only take 1 to 2 minutes. You shouldn't feel any discomfort. After the treatment is over, the technician will return to the room and help you remove the device that held you still.

    SIDE EFFECTS

    Proton therapy may have side effects, but these tend to be milder than with x-ray radiation because proton therapy causes less damage to healthy tissues. Side effects depend upon the area being treated, but may include skin redness in the radiation area, and temporary hair loss.

    AFTER THE PROCEDURE

    Following proton therapy, you should be able to resume your normal activities. You will likely see your doctor every 3 to 4 months for a follow-up exam.

    CONSIDERATIONS

    Few medical centers in the United States currently offer this type of therapy. It is very expensive to build a proton therapy center.

    References

    Coen JJ, Zietman AL, Rossi CJ, et al. Comparison of high-dose proton radiotherapy and brachytherapy in localized prostate cancer: a case-matched analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012 Jan1;82(1):e25-31.

    Ramaekers BL, Pijls-Johannesma M, Joore MA, et al.Systematic review and meta-analysis of radiotherapy in various head and neck cancers: comparing photons, carbon-ions and protons. CancerTreat Rev. 2011 May;37(3):185-201.

    Pijls-Johannesma M, Grutters JP, Verhaegen F, Lambin P, De Ruysscher D. Do we have enough evidence to implement particle therapy as standard treatment in lung cancer? A systematic literature review. Oncologist. 2010;15(1):93-103.

    Durante M, Loeffler JS. Charged particles in radiation oncology. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2010 Jan;7(1):37-43.

    Terasawa T, Dvorak T, Ip S, Raman G, Lau J, Trikalinos TA. Systematic review: charged-particle radiation therapy for cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Oct 20;151(8):556-65.

    BACK TO TOP

          A Closer Look

            Talking to your MD

              Self Care

                Tests for Proton therapy

                  Review Date: 6/5/2012

                  Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

                  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
                  adam.com

                  A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


                  Back  |  Top
                  About Us
                  Contact Us
                  History
                  Mission
                  Locations & Directions
                  Quality Reports
                  Annual Reports
                  Honors & Awards
                  Community Health Needs
                  Assessment

                  Newsroom
                  Services
                  Brain & Spine
                  Cancer
                  Heart
                  Maternity
                  Orthopedics
                  Pulmonary
                  Sleep Medicine
                  Urgent Care
                  Women's Services
                  All Services
                  Patients & Visitors
                  Locations & Directions
                  Find a Physician
                  Tour St. Luke's
                  Patient & Visitor Information
                  Contact Us
                  Payment Options
                  Financial Assistance
                  Send a Card
                  Mammogram Appointments
                  Health Tools
                  My Personal Health
                  mystlukes
                  Spirit of Women
                  Health Information & Tools
                  Clinical Trials
                  Health Risk Assessments
                  Employer Programs -
                  Passport to Wellness

                  Classes & Events
                  Classes & Events
                  Spirit of Women
                  Donate & Volunteer
                  Giving Opportunities
                  Volunteer
                  Physicians & Employees
                  For Physicians
                  Remote Access
                  Medical Residency Information
                  Pharmacy Residency Information
                  Physician CPOE Training
                  Careers
                  Careers
                  St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
                  Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile