What Is Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy patient with nursesProton Therapy Arrives in Georgia

Winship Cancer Institute adds a powerful radiation therapy option to its broad array of cancer-fighting tools. Combining the latest advances in radiation technology, engineering, and medical physics, Winship physicians employ proton therapy to deliver a specialized treatment exactly where needed.

What Is Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy, also called proton beam therapy, is a type of radiation treatment that uses proton particles to destroy cancer cells. Unlike standard radiation therapy, which uses X-rays, a proton therapy beam can be calibrated to put the maximum radiation dose directly at the cancer with minimal radiation to healthy tissue. By reducing this radiation to normal tissues, proton therapy may also reduce side effects experienced during radiation treatment, and reduce risks of long-term side effects after treatment.

Because proton therapy can deliver a more targeted dose of radiation, physicians often use it to treat cancers in the brain, head and neck, lungs and abdomen, as well as for pediatric cancers. Depending on your diagnosis and treatment plan, your care team may decide to use proton therapy in addition to surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

How Does Proton Therapy Work?

Like other types of radiation treatment, proton therapy causes damage to the DNA of cancer cells, preventing them from growing and dividing, and eventually causing enough damage that these cells die. This is why it is important to have the ability to concentrate the radiation to the tumor or target for treatment and minimize or avoid radiation to normal tissues. In doing so, the DNA damage is limited to the cancer cells and avoids affecting normal healthy tissues.

Behind the scenes, the proton beam is generated in a cyclotron before traveling to the treatment room where the narrow stream of protons is steered by a magnet to “paint” the radiation to match the size, shape, and depth of the target.

Proton treatment sessions are typically daily, Monday through Friday. Treatment duration may vary according to your treatment site, but are typically 30 minutes each day. The total duration or number of treatments depends on your diagnosis and other factors, and can range from 3 to 8 weeks.

Emory Proton Therapy Center

The experienced physicians and specialists at Winship Cancer Institute and the Emory Proton Therapy Center will work closely with you to develop the most effective treatment plan with the fewest potential side effects. If you want to learn more about proton therapy and the Emory Proton Therapy Center, visit winshipcancer.emory.edu/proton.

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