Proton therapy for breast cancer

Proton therapy is a precise form of radiation treatment that targets your tumor without delivering harmful excess radiation to the surrounding tissue. This allows your doctor to treat the cancer while helping protect the heart and lungs because protecting these vital organs is practically as important as treating your tumor.

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While standard X-ray therapy for breast cancer has helped save lives for decades, the properties of X-rays cause the surrounding healthy tissue to receive a considerable dose of radiation, which can lead to side effects like coronary artery disease, lung scarring, secondary cancers and an increased risk of major coronary events later in life. The cardiotoxicity of some chemotherapy only compounds the risk to the heart. Until recently, patients and the medical community accepted these side effects as a given in order to appropriately treat the cancer.

Now that proton therapy is available in the Pacific Northwest, these risks can be mitigated. With proton therapy, treatment is delivered precisely to the tumor, so less radiation is delivered to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.
breast cancer proton therapy

Proton therapy takes advantage of a unique characteristic of protons—they deliver their maximum dose of radiation, known as the Bragg Peak, right before they come to a stop. That’s how the damage is concentrated on the cancer, protecting healthy tissue.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, the radiation oncology specialists at our proton therapy facility are available to give a second opinion and determine if proton therapy is right for you.

Bragg Peak Diagram

Pencil beam scanning (PBS)

Some patients may benefit from innovative pencil beam scanning (PBS). PBS "paints" the tumor with a very thin, very precise beam of protons that's accurate within millimeters, reducing even further the amount of radiation to healthy tissue. PBS sends rapid pulses of protons to each planned spot within the tumor until the entire cancer is treated.

Proton therapy facts

  • Radiation exposure to the heart increases the likelihood of heart complications later in life by 7.4 percent per gray.
  • Proton therapy reduces the radiation exposure to surrounding tissue and organs.
  • Proton therapy is often the only radiation treatment available if you’ve already received radiation from a previous cancer occurrence.
  • Treatments are safe, noninvasive and painless for most patients, helping speed recovery and maintain lifestyle.
  • As of 2022, more than 200,000 people worldwide have received proton therapy at centers in Europe, Asia and the United States.