858.283.4771
Proton Therapy Treatment FAQs

Answers to Your Proton Therapy Treatment Questions


We understand that when you receive a diagnosis of cancer, you need to make many important decisions and may have a number of questions. Find your answers below or call us at 858.299.5984 to speak directly to one of our team members.

WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER PROTON THERAPY OVER STANDARD RADIATION?

Proton therapy is a very precise form of radiation therapy that results in less radiation exposure to normal healthy tissue in a patient’s body. Patients can recover more quickly and report fewer side effects, along with minimizing the risk of developing secondary cancers as compared to standard x-ray radiation. For example, men with prostate cancer treatment report fewer incidences of bowel and bladder issues with proton therapy.

WHAT IS PENCIL-BEAM PROTON THERAPY?

California Protons was the first proton center in the nation to offer pencil beam proton technology in all of our proton treatment rooms. The most advanced delivery method of proton therapy is actively scanned pencil-beam proton therapy. This beam of protons is directed to an area within 2 millimeters of a tumor using powerful magnets. The high dose of radiation can be targeted to the unique shape and size of the tumor and can be directed to tumors very close to normal structures that we want to avoid damaging. The tight margin protects healthy tissues and the surrounding organs from radiation. Unlike the older passively scattered proton therapy treatment, pencil beam scanning technology further enhances the capabilities of proton beam therapy. This actively scanned pencil-beam technology also allows one to deliver Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT) – fine-tuning the range and intensity of the proton beam to sweep this narrow proton beam across the tumor in fine strokes, increasing intensity and dose layer by layer inside the tumor.

WHAT CANCERS DOES PROTON THERAPY TREAT?

Proton therapy can be used to treat the same cancers and tumors that standard x-ray radiation treats. Just as with standard radiation, however, there are cancers that cannot be easily treated with protons, such as blood cancers. There are also cancers in which proton therapy is not appropriated depending on an individual patient’s circumstances, such as the stage or prognosis of the cancer. Our team of physicians often see patients to provide second opinions on whether they would be a candidate for proton therapy as it is critical to evaluate each case individually to determine if proton therapy would be a good treatment choice. One particular area where we see many patients is for cancers that have returned in the same area after previous radiation treatment. With the precision of proton therapy, we are often able to deliver a second course of radiation that otherwise could not be done with standard x-ray radiation therapy. Visit our proton therapy Conditions Treated page to learn more.

HOW MANY CANCER PATIENTS ARE TREATED WITH PROTON THERAPY?

Worldwide about 200,000 cancer patients have been treated with proton therapy. As a regional center, California Protons works with patients from all over the world. Locally, we are affiliated with UC San Diego Health Cancer Network and Rady Children’s Hospital. Our center has treated over 3,500 patients since it opened in 2015.

HOW LONG IS A PROTON THERAPY MEDICAL CONSULT?

Total appointment time can take several hours, including time required on-site to update your medical records and other information and time with a radiation oncologist for the consultation discussion.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING TO MY MEDICAL CONSULT?

Please bring completed paperwork that was sent to you, as well as insurance card(s), imaging CD(s) and any other information requested ahead of this appointment. We will call you with a reminder the day before your consultation appointment. 

WHAT IS A CT-SIM?

Short for “CT Simulation,” this is an appointment during which you are placed on a treatment table replica in the exact position needed for your specific tumor and tumor location. If needed for your treatment plan, a custom immobilization device such as a mask, headrest or other device is created.

HOW LONG DOES A CT-SIM TAKE?

In general, this appointment will last for one hour. It can require up to three hours if additional images are needed. 

WHAT IS A V-SIM?

Short for “Verification Simulation,” this is when your treatment and setup are verified before the delivery of the first treatment (beam on) to ensure accuracy and precision of all calculations, measurements and patient positioning.

HOW LONG DOES A V-SIM TAKE?

Approximately 30 minutes.

HOW LONG DOES CREATION OF A CUSTOMIZED PROTON THERAPY TREATMENT PLAN TAKE?

The average time for most patients is from 10 to 14 days once all necessary images and medical records are obtained.

HOW MANY TREATMENTS DO I NEED FOR PROTON THERAPY?

The number of individual sessions depends on your type of cancer and location, as well as if treatment is concurrent with other treatments such as hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Please be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about pre-booked flights or other date-specific commitments with your care team.

HOW LONG IS A PROTON THERAPY TREATMENT SESSION?

The average treatment session lasts 30 minutes, with the majority of time used for changing clothes and being prepped and positioned on the treatment table.

WHY DO I NEED A BADGE TO CHECK-IN FOR TREATMENT?

The system alerts the care team of your arrival.

ARE PETS ALLOWED?

Only service animals specially trained to aid a person with a disability are allowed. 

WHAT IS AN OTV?

An “On Treatment Visit” is a weekly meeting with your radiation oncologist during your course of proton therapy treatment to follow progress and address any questions or concerns you may have. Your radiation oncologist may modify your treatment plan based on how your cancer is responding to treatment. 

WHAT PHONE NUMBER DO I CALL TO LEARN IF THE CENTER ACCEPTS MY HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN?

You can reach us at 858.299.5984 (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time). 

WHAT HAPPENS ONCE MY PROTON THERAPY TREATMENT IS COMPLETED?

Your radiation oncology nurse will provide you with your medical discharge papers and after-care instructions. A bell-ringing ceremony with your care team is traditionally held to celebrate your completion of proton therapy treatment.

HOW DO I REQUEST MY MEDICAL RECORDS?

Please call the center at 858.299.5984 (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time).

WHEN IS MY FOLLOW-UP APPOINTMENT AFTER COMPLETING TREATMENT?

Follow-up appointments are typically discussed during your discharge process.

ARE THERE OTHER WAYS TO BE INVOLVED IN THE CENTER DURING OR AFTER TREATMENT?

Patients, family members and others interested in proton therapy can stay connected to the California Protons Cancer Therapy Center by becoming a member of California Protons Connect. Our members enjoy keeping in touch with other members and patients benefit from sharing their experiences, answering questions and providing emotional support to one another. You can also volunteer for our California Protons Champion Program to help support new and current patients, or attend an event or support group. Current and former patients plan social activities on a regular basis and post details in our center’s lobby. You can also stay in touch with patients and staff through our Facebook page at: facebook.com/CaliforniaProtons.

 

Is proton therapy right for you? Discuss your options.