The Patient Experience
Being treated for cancer can be frightening – though
tests, treatments, surgery and drugs can be lifesaving,
side effects are hard, and navigating the maze
of care isn't always easy. The physicians and staff
at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center know this,
and everything at the facility has been planned
and designed with patient comfort and convenience
Treatment begins with a consultation with a physician
to develop a care plan for the patient, whether
it's proton therapy alone, proton therapy in conjunction
with other techniques, or another option altogether.
If proton therapy is chosen, a series of planning
sessions will be held, during which doctors and
physicists will develop an individualized treatment
plan for the patient.
The next step is to obtain
a 3-D picture of the patient's tumor using CT, MRI,
or PET scanning.
These data are used to construct the filters and
shields in the multileaf collimator at the end
of the proton beam, so that the beam can be precisely
tuned and individually shaped for maximum effectiveness.
Depending on the individual patient's circumstances, the course of the therapy usually runs from four to eight weeks, five days a week. Generally, the patient is at the Roberts Center for about an hour each day, with the actual proton therapy session lasting approximately 20 minutes. There's no pain or discomfort during the procedure, very little noise, and no time spent inside small, confining spaces, as with some MRI scans. The treatment room itself is well-lit, with wood paneling and soothing green tones. The space is even futuristic looking — some patients have compared it to stepping aboard the starship Enterprise on "Star Trek."
But likely the most noticeable and welcome part of the experience for patients will be the possibility of greatly reduced side effects.