Proton therapy is an advanced radiation treatment that precisely targets tumors with a goal of limiting harm to healthy tissue. It may help reduce short- and long-term side effects, lower the risk of secondary tumors (caused by treatment) and improve your life during cancer treatment and after.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - Proton Therapy
Fewer than 100 centers worldwide offer this state-of-the-art treatment option. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center – Proton Therapy, led by world-class experts in proton therapy, is the only facility of its kind in the Northwest.
What Is Proton Therapy?
Like standard X-ray radiation therapy, proton therapy can destroy tumors. Both treatments work by keeping cancer cells from dividing and growing. The advantage of proton radiation therapy is that your physician can better match the treatment to your tumor’s size, shape and depth. Greater precision matters most for tumors near vital organs, like the brain or heart, or in children, who are still growing and developing. Learn more about what proton therapy is, its benefits and how it can help people with cancer.
Physicians use proton therapy to treat a wide range of cancers, and some benign tumors, in adults and children. These include brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal, head and neck, breast, lung and prostate tumors, as well as sarcomas. Proton therapy can also help patients whose cancer has come back and patients who can’t have any more X-ray radiation therapy.
Head and Neck Cancers
Treatment Plan and Process
At your first in-person appointment, you’ll meet with your radiation oncologist and a nurse from your care team. They will talk with you about proton therapy, your treatment and any tests you may need before treatment can begin.
You’ll also meet other members of your care team, such as a radiation therapist and patient navigator/concierge. They will work with you during your treatment and follow-up care. Your first visit is a time for us to get to know you and your family and for you to get answers to any questions you may have about proton therapy.
Simulation and Planning
After your first appointment and any tests you may need, we will schedule you for a computed tomography (CT) simulation scan. The purpose of this scan is to gather images of your tumor and normal tissue from many angles. Your physician and dosimetrists use the images to plan your specific treatment and make sure you are positioned correctly for each proton therapy treatment. To help with positioning, they may use devices such as masks, leg molds, head rests, sponges and pillows that are customized for your body.
The scan may take up to two hours, including preparation time. A nurse will explain the process from this scan to the end of treatment and answer any questions you may have.
Patients usually have treatment five days a week for one to nine weeks. The number of treatments depends on the location and size of your tumor. We’ll guide you through each step of treatment and make sure you and your family know what to expect. We want you to have all the information and resources you need.
Telehealth Consultations Available
We now offer telehealth visits for new and existing patients from Washington state. These visits are a convenient way to discuss treatment options and follow-up care from home.
During a telehealth consultation, new patients meet with a physician via videoconferencing or by phone to talk about their cancer and treatment options, including proton therapy. To request a new patient telehealth consultation, call us at (206) 306-2800.
If you are already a Fred Hutch patient, you may have the option to do your follow-up visits during treatment via telehealth. Ask your care team.
The radiation oncologists at our proton therapy facility will plan your therapy, manage your care and see you weekly to make sure your treatment is on track. All of them specialize in proton therapy, and the team sees Fred Hutch patients with all types of disease.
Your radiation oncologist is the leader of your personal care team. They will manage your care with the support of other highly skilled medical professionals who are trained in proton therapy. The team includes radiation therapists, nurses, physicists and dosimetrists. We have supportive care providers, such as social workers, child life specialists, registered dietitians and integrative medicine specialists, to help with your well-being in every sense.
Physician-scientists at Fred Hutch have been at the forefront of cancer research for decades to help bring patients the best treatment options. One way we do this is by offering access to clinical trials, also called clinical studies.
Your care team will give you the choice to join clinical trials that match your situation, and they can answer questions to help you decide if you want to join a study. Patients who choose to take part often have the first chance to benefit from new treatment approaches, and they add to our knowledge about proton therapy.
After 12 years in the military, followed by 20 years running a computer business, Reginald “Reggie” Edge now spends his well-earned retirement on what means the most to him. On a given day, you can find him taking a walk with his wife, Renee; spending time with his grandchildren; woodworking; and biking around his community in Spanaway, Washington.
Tina Christian-Lenson has always understood the value of a healthy lifestyle and regular cancer screenings. After all, she works in health care. But when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she became the patient — and gained new insight on how important it is for patients to advocate for themselves.
In October 2019, Barry, who was at high risk for prostate cancer due to his age, had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test during his annual checkup. A few weeks later, he and his wife were reminded to check his test results when they saw a prostate cancer story on the local news.
As a father of two young boys and a modern-day Renaissance man, Mark Miller of Bellingham lives an active life that would make most people’s heads spin. In between his flights as a pilot for a major airline, he also works as a flight instructor, youth hockey coach and referee, STEM education volunteer and award-winning school bus driver.