How Proton Therapy Works

For patients facing many types of cancer, proton therapy offers an effective alternative to traditional radiation. Proton beams enter the body and deposit most of their energy directly in the tumor. Proton therapy, for many types of treatment, saves the healthy tissue in front of the tumor and does not damage healthy tissue behind the tumor.

Proton therapy uses positive charged hydrogen atom nuclei, also called protons, whose relative mass is about two thousand times higher than that of electrons. In proton beam therapy, protons are accelerated to approximately 230MeV (mega-electron volts), which enables the tumor to reach a depth of about 30 cm inside the body.

The unique feature of protons is that they are able to release significant energy at the end of a proton range which is also called the “Bragg Peak”. By using this Bragg Peak, proton beam therapy can accurately release the greatest part of proton energy into the tumor while protecting the healthy tissue behind the tumor.

Spot scanning or pencil beam scanning (PBS) allows a higher degree of precision and minimizes the overall exposure and radiation to healthy tissue. PBS technique uses a magnetic field to steer the position of the small proton beam and uses an energy layer selection system to choose the precise depth of the tumor, just like the 3D painting technique used in x-ray therapy.  With this state-of-the-art technique, Beaumont PTC is able to offer our patients the most advanced proton treatment - Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT).

Treatment process

The treatment process begins with a consult visit with the radiation doctor and radiation oncology nurse that will be managing the patient’s proton therapy treatments. The process will be thoroughly explained to the patients and all patients undergo a treatment planning session before beginning treatments. A special immobilization device will be made during the planning session to keep patients still during treatment.

The radiation therapist will explain the daily routine to the patient and review what usually occurs during a treatment session.

Speak to a Proton Nurse Navigator today by calling 248-551-8402, or fill out and submit the form below.