Proton Therapy

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What to Expect

If your oncology team recommends proton therapy, you’ll need to plan ahead for a course of treatment that will typically cover a period of four to eight weeks. Your planning should include considering where you’ll live during this time—if you live beyond a commuting distance to Seattle. 

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) makes available short-term rental housing for patients. For more information on housing opportunities in Seattle, visit our Housing Options section

Initial Consultation and Treatment Planning

Prior to treatment, you’ll meet with your radiation oncologist and nurse to discuss your treatment plan. You’ll also meet other members of your care team at SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center, who will work with you throughout your entire course of treatment—and remain involved during follow-up care. We urge you to use this time to get answers to any remaining questions you may have about proton therapy. 

Before treatment begins, you’ll also be asked to come to SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center, located on UW Medicine's Northwest Hospital & Medical Center campus, for a computed tomography simulation (CT) scan. This imaging will be used by your medical team to precisely map out your tumor and customize your treatment plan. As part of the planning process, the simulation team may create a customized immobilization device designed to hold the treatment area still during treatment.

Your radiation oncologist will determine the length of treatment and exact dosage appropriate for your specific needs. Once your personal treatment plan is completed, you’ll be contacted by a radiation therapist on your care team to schedule your appointments for proton therapy. Most patients are scheduled to receive therapy five days a week, excluding weekends and holidays, for a period of four to eight weeks. 

While undergoing treatment, you’ll meet with your radiation oncologist at least once a week to discuss how your therapy is progressing. 

During Your Treatment Sessions

Receiving proton therapy is painless. During your actual treatment, you will not feel or see the proton beam. Most patients report experiencing no discomfort or sensation during treatment. The entire session can range from 15 to 60 minutes as final therapy and safety protocols are met and the treatment bed positions your body. During treatment, your radiation therapist will continue to monitor you—he or she can see and talk to you at all times.

Should You Be Concerned about Side Effects?

Most patients experience few side effects from proton therapy—either during or after treatment. For those who do report side effects, these are typically slight and occur after a number of treatments. Depending on the site of your tumor, possible side effects may include skin irritation in the direct path of the proton radiation, fatigue, and hair loss around the area being treated. 

Before your treatment begins, your doctor will discuss all possible side effects with you. Throughout treatment, your nurse will work with you to help you manage any side effects you may experience.