What to Expect During Proton Therapy
With every visit, you can expect to be treated with warmth and compassion by each member of your proton therapy team. These caring professionals serve as a consistent point of contact and source of information and resources.
During your first meeting, you will meet with your team, including a radiation oncologist, to discuss and evaluate your treatment goals. At this time a personalized treatment plan will be developed that may include only proton therapy, a combination of therapies or a completely different therapy. If proton therapy is recommended, a series of planning sessions will be scheduled to enable your team to further develop your plan.
The next step is a CT simulation appointment where your radiation oncologist will use a CT scan and possibly an MRI and/or PET scan to reconstruct the tumor and surrounding areas. This reconstruction enables him or her to plan accurate, precise dose targeting to the tumor while protecting the surrounding normal tissue. Once your personalized treatment plan is complete and before your first treatment, you will participate in a “dress rehearsal,” which ensures your positioning and dosage are accurate. Your physician will review every aspect of treatment during this time. If he or she gives approval, treatment may begin either the same day or the next.
Each treatment session lasts approximately 30 minutes, although this may vary depending on the tumor’s location and delivery plan. Most of the session is spent ensuring you are in the proper position before beam delivery. The actual time the beam is on is just a few minutes. The procedure is not painful, although some patients may experience discomfort from lying on the table and maintaining their body in the necessary position. Depending on the patient, proton therapy may last for several weeks. Usually patients are treated five days a week during that time and can expect to spend about an hour each day at the Cancer Center.
On your last day of treatment, you will be surrounded by your proton therapy team to “ring the bell.” This celebrates the completion of your treatment and honors your role as a member of the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center family. About a month after proton therapy ends, you will meet with your radiation oncologist to discuss your progress, any pain or symptoms and challenges you may be experiencing.