What is Proton Therapy
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Receiving Treatment

Receiving Treatment

It’s Cancer Treatment. Not Cancer Punishment.

Scheduling your treatment sessions

Once planning for your cancer treatment is completed, someone from your Care Team will tell you how many treatments are prescribed and schedule your first appointment. Most patients have therapy five days a week (excluding weekends and holidays) for 4 to 9 weeks, depending on the total number needed. Occasionally your doctor may order additional treatments or breaks in your regular treatment schedule. You will always be informed of any changes.
You will be told when to arrive for your first appointment and you will be provided with any special instructions (for example, some patients need to come with full or empty bladder, or need to avoid wearing deodorant or lotions). At the end of each treatment week, you will get your schedule for the following week. You will need to come to the Center approximately 10 minutes early to complete any necessary preparations, such as changing into a gown and consuming specific amounts of fluid.
Although we try to find an appointment time that is most convenient for you, some appointments may be scheduled in the evenings due to high volume in any particular treatment room.

Arriving for your treatment sessions

When you arrive for your treatment, you’ll be greeted by a member of your Care Team. You may be asked to change into a gown, robe and slippers provided by the Center. There are secure lockers for you to store your clothing or other personal belongings. If necessary, the Care Team will ask you to drink a specific amount of fluid shortly before your treatment.

During your treatment sessions

Most patients do not feel pain or discomfort during proton therapy treatments. Members of your personal Care Team will assist you throughout the process.

You will lie on a treatment bed and your therapists will make adjustments. Since proton therapy is precise, your treatment set-up must be very accurate. This is why we use the immobilization devices. You will be asked to lie still during the process and while the proton beam is on, which usually is about one minute. The Care Team will determine your proper positioning and you will be automatically moved into position before each treatment using an FDA-approved robotic positioning system.

During the actual treatment you will not feel or see the proton beam. You may hear some clicking from the equipment around you, but generally after a few treatment sessions the sounds go unnoticed. Your radiation therapists will need to leave the room at that time, but they watch you through a video monitor. They remain close by and can easily talk to you.
The entire session takes from 15 to 60 minutes. No recovery time is needed, and you may immediately return to your normal daily activities. There is no need to stay overnight in a hospital or remain at the Center after your treatment.

Few side effects

Typically, there are no or few side effects from proton therapy. If there are side effects during or after treatment, they are generally minor and occur after a number of treatments. Depending on the site of your tumor, side effects may include skin irritation in the direct path of the proton radiation, tiredness, and hair loss in the area being treated. Before treatment begins, your doctor will discuss with you any possible side effects. Your Care Team nurse will help you manage any side effects you may have.

Meeting with your doctor or staff at the Center

Once a week (or every five treatments) you will meet with a doctor (radiation oncologist) to discuss how your therapy is progressing. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have. In some cases, your doctor may order additional tests such as blood tests, CTs, MRIs, or other scans during your treatment. Your weekly meetings with your doctor are scheduled around treatment sessions, so there is no need to make an extra trip to the Center. An additional scan will be performed before you come back to the Center for your follow-up appointment, usually three months after your treatment is complete.

Bring your family or loved one

We know how important it is to have the presence and support of those close to you. We encourage you to bring family and loved ones with you to the Center if you can. We offer many special services to make all our visitors feel at home:

  • Additional educational materials
  • Regularly scheduled activities and events
  • A children’s play room
  • A beverage bar

Traveling to Seattle for treatment

Seattle welcomes patients and their families to our city during treatment. The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center has a concierge available to assist with all of your needs -- from accommodations with negotiated rates to transportation to suggestions on exploring the city.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)

The purpose of the system is to monitor patient location to provide data on factors such as waiting times and treatment times. The system allows the Center staff to monitor the time of the treatment phase, from the point the patient enters and exits the building. This will assist us with identifying and trending data for our continuous commitment to providing our patients with the quality of care they deserve. It will assist with identifying patient needs and providing alerts if the needs are not being met.

  • The data does not leave the Center
  • The patient cannot be tracked outside of the Center
  • The data is not used for any commercial purpose, or any purpose unrelated to providing better patient care

The RFID antenna is located in the patient badge. It does not emit any signal on its own. It is only active in the Center. It does not communicate any patient-related data, and there is no need to worry about carrying it outside the Center. The antenna just communicates its serial number, which is not associated with the patient name or any other personal information in a way that would compromise the patient’s privacy.

We’re dedicated to you while you’re here and after you leave. Follow-up care is extremely important. Your Care Team will remain in contact with you and your referring physician after you've completed treatment.