What to Expect During Proton Therapy

From your first evaluation to your final post–treatment visit, you can expect to be treated with warmth, compassion and total expertise from each and every member of your Penn proton therapy team.

We understand cancer treatment can be complex and difficult to navigate. That's why, in addition to your dedicated team of medical professionals, we have a staff of experienced social workers who serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source of information, advice and support.

Evaluation

Your first step is to meet with our team including a radiation oncologist, to evaluate your personal treatment goals. During this meeting, a treatment plan is developed with you.

Your cancer treatment plan may include proton therapy alone, in conjunction with other cancer treatments, or another cancer treatment option altogether.

If proton therapy is recommended, a series of planning sessions will help cancer specialists and physicists at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center develop your individualized cancer treatment plan.

Simulation Procedure

The CT simulation appointment follows the initial consultation. During the simulation appointment, the radiation oncologist will obtain a 3–D picture of your tumor using CT, MRI or PET scanning. These data and images are used to reconstruct the tumor and the adjacent normal structures. This allows for accurate and precise dose targeting to the tumor and projection of normal tissues.

Before Cancer Treatment

As a final step prior to starting treatment, you will participate in a "dry run." During this session, all aspects of the your prescribed treatment — positioning and dosages — are checked for accuracy. The dry run usually takes place in the room where you will receive your actual treatment.

Typically, if all aspects of the dry run receive physician approval, your first treatment may take place on the same or following day.

During Cancer Treatment

Proton therapy treatment typically takes about 30 minutes depending on the area of your body receiving treatment. Most of this time is spent making sure that you are in a very specific position to receive your treatment.

Proton therapy does not cause pain, though some patients with physical limitations may experience some discomfort due to positioning.

The actual treatment and delivery of the proton beams only takes a couple of minutes. And because it's non–invasive and extremely precise, you'll experience fewer side effects and complications during cancer treatment.

Depending upon your circumstances, a course of proton therapy runs approximately five days a week for several weeks. Generally, you can expect to be at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center for about an hour each day.

After Cancer Treatment

On your last day of treatment, you'll be surrounded by your Penn proton therapy team to "ring the bell." This celebrates the completion of your treatment, and heralds the beginning of your role as a member of our Penn family and support community.

About one month after cancer treatment with proton therapy ends, you will meet with your radiation oncologist. During this visit, you are encouraged to discuss any challenges you are experiencing as a result of your diagnosis or treatment.