Your body’s tissues are made up of cells which consist of molecules with atoms as their building blocks. Inside every atom is the nucleus, and negatively charged electrons orbit this nucleus. Protons work to attract negatively charged electrons and pull them out of their orbits, which damages molecules within the cells. Proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT) works on the principle of selective cell destruction.
Similar to image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), PBRT allows physicians to deliver higher doses of radiation to manage cancer while significantly reducing damage to healthy surrounding tissue and vital organs. In PBRT, protons are energized to specific velocities, which determine how deeply in the body they will deposit their maximum energy within the designated cancer volume. The result of protons’ dose-distribution characteristics is fewer harmful side effects, more direct impact on the tumor, and increased tumor control.
Before Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
Prior to treatment, you will have an in-person consultation with your physician to discuss your treatment plan. Additional tests may be needed and a scheduled computed tomography (CT) simulation scan will be performed. Just before proton beam radiation therapy, you may be asked to change into a gown, robe, and slippers. Your personal care team will assist you onto the treatment bed and into position.
During Radiation Therapy
You will feel no discomfort or sensation during treatment. You may hear some mechanical noise coming for the equipment around you. These sounds usually go unnoticed by patients after a few treatment sessions. Each treatment session can range from 15-60 minutes. Most patients are scheduled for therapy five days a week for a period of five to nine weeks.
After Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
There is no recovery time with PBRT, so you can return to normal activities right after each treatment session. Early side effects may include skin irritation in the direct path of the proton radiation, tiredness, and hair loss around the area being treated. Following treatment, you will meet with your physician regularly to discuss how your therapy is progressing.