FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does proton therapy work in relation to other mainstream radiation therapy and chemotherapy?
- Proton therapy is the most precise and advanced form of radiation treatment today. It primarily radiates the tumor site, leaving surrounding healthy tissue and organs intact. Conventional x-ray radiation often radiates healthy tissue in its path and surrounding the tumor site. Chemotherapy moves throughout the entire body, unlike radiation and surgery which are considered "site specific" treatments.
What are the side effects from proton therapy?
- Minimal to no side effects, compared to conventional forms of radiation. Much more easily tolerated than standard radiation therapy.
What kinds of tumors are best treated by proton therapy?
- Tumors that are localized and have not spread to distant areas of the body.
How would I know if Proton Therapy is the appropriate treatment option for myself or a loved one?
- Do your homework. Learn as much as possible about all the treatment options available for your condition. Ask lots of questions and discuss them thoroughly with your doctors.
Can proton therapy be used in conjunction with other forms of cancer treatment?
- Yes. Depending on the case, proton therapy may be used in combination with traditional radiation, chemotherapy and/or as a follow-up to surgery.
My doctor never mentioned proton therapy as a cancer treatment option? How long has proton therapy been in use for medical purposes?
- Proton Therapy was first proposed in 1954, but primarily had been available for very limited use. There was no hospital-based treatment centers in the world until the Proton Treatment Center opened in 1990 at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Most radiation oncologists know about proton therapy, but have not had experience working with the proton technology, making it difficult for them to advise patients on this form of treatment. But the benefits of proton treatment are expanding to other regions of the USA, including the southwest, midwest, southeast, and mid-atlantic.
How long does proton therapy take? How soon will I know if the treatment is successful?
- Proton therapy can take anywhere from one day to seven weeks depending on the tumor site. The length of treatment time will also decrease over time as heavier doses begin to increase. With most cancer cases, success is determined if the cancer does not re-occur within five years after treatment.
Does proton therapy cost more than conventional forms of cancer treatment? Is it covered by most insurance plans?
- Nearly all insurance providers nationwide cover proton therapy as does the U.S. medicare program. Proton therapy costs more than conventional radiation, but generally less than surgery.
Why is proton therapy so limited in its availability?
- Proton therapy had been limited to physics research labs until 1990. And like most new technologies, building a proton center can be an expensive endeavor for most universities and academic medical centers. The newest proton facilities to start treating patients in the last two years include the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, and the M.D. Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston. Both are now treating 60-80 patients daily as of 2008.
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