The first step in proton therapy treatment is meeting with a radiation oncologist who has reviewed a patient’s X-rays and other scans, biopsy specimens and details of previous chemotherapy or radiation treatment. A physical examination is performed and additional lab tests, scans or consultations with other medical professionals (such as nutritionists, social workers and anesthesiologists) may be ordered.
Traveling from outside of the Cincinnati area? The Butler County Visitors Bureau has information on travel, lodging and dining options near the UC Health Proton Therapy Center.
The treatment planning process begins with what is known as “simulation.” Depending on the tumor type and location, the following may occur during simulation:
- Creating devices to help the patient remain still during treatment
- Observing and measuring breathing
- Performing a specialized computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Drawing temporary reference marks on the body
There is no discomfort associated with simulation. However, a light anesthetic may be used if a patient is having difficulty remaining still. The simulation process typically takes about an hour.
Following simulation, a team of specialists including a radiation oncologist, radiation physicists and dosimitrists create an individualized treatment plan. This plan defines how the proton beam will be aimed and focused to treat the tumor. Multiple quality assurance and safety checks are performed to ensure the proton beam is delivered precisely as prescribed. This step in the treatment planning process typically takes 1-2 weeks, depending on the complexity of the treatment.
A course of proton therapy typically consists of daily (Monday-Friday) treatments for 4-8 weeks.
In preparation for treatments, patients are positioned on the treatment table using the devices created during simulation (such as masks or molds). A series of X-rays and/or scans are performed to precisely aim the proton beam at a patient’s tumor, and treatment is delivered. Each treatment is delivered by trained radiation therapists and is supervised by a radiation oncologist and a radiation physicist. While a typical treatment session lasts approximately 30 minutes, the proton beam is only delivering radiation for several minutes.
During treatment, patients meet weekly with their radiation oncologist for a formal visit and examination to monitor progress and address concerns.
Following completion of treatment, patients continue to meet with their radiation oncologist to assess the results of treatment. Patients travelling from far distances will often follow up with their local physicians, though specific arrangements are customized for each patient’s circumstances.