Step 1: Consultation
The first step in your care is a consultation. During consultation, we review your medical history, perform a physical exam, decide if any additional tests are needed, discuss all radiation options that may be appropriate for your care, make recommendations, and answer questions. You will have the opportunity to meet with one of our financial counselors, who will work with you through insurance authorization.
Plan to spend approximately 2-3 hours at the center for intake, consultation, and checkout. Your care will likely be discussed in a tumor board, a team of doctors from different specialties who focus on your disease. The optimal care may also involve consultation and treatment with other physicians.
Step 2: Simulation
To plan your treatment, you will undergo a "simulation" or planning session. During this visit our radiation therapists will help position you the way you will be treated each day. A CT scan will be done to create a picture of you in the treatment position to design your radiation plan. Many patients will also have an MRI at the time of simulation to help identify the target for treatment.
After the simulation is complete, you will receive additional information about your treatment appointments. Plan to spend approximately 3 hours at the center for the simulation appointment when it includes both CT and MRI scans.
Step 3: Treatment Planning
Your physician will precisely map the target to receive radiation and define the normal tissues and organs that must be protected from radiation. Working closely with our team of medical physicists and medical dosimetrists, advanced software is used to develop the best, most precise radiation treatment plan for you.
It takes approximately 2 weeks after the simulation session to complete the treatment planning and quality assurance work before treatment can begin.
Step 4: First Day of Treatment
It's normal to be nervous on your first day of treatment, but our radiation therapists will explain each step of the treatment as we escort you into the treatment room, and help position you on the treatment table. The treatment is invisible and painless. You will be provided the option of listening to the music of your choice during treatment.
On your first day of treatment you will receive a schedule of your upcoming treatment appointments. Plan to spend approximately one hour at the center for your first day of treatment.
Step 5: During Treatment
Proton treatment sessions are typically daily, Monday through Friday. Treatment duration may vary according your treatment site, but are typically 30 minutes each day. The total duration or number of treatments depends on your diagnosis and other factors, and will be discussed in consultation with your treating physician.
During your treatment course, you will be scheduled to meet once weekly with your care team who will monitor your progress and assist with any side effects you might experience. Allow extra time for these weekly visits.
Step 6: Completion and Beyond
Your physician will talk with you about a long-term plan to determine how your cancer or tumor has responded to treatment. During your recommended schedule of return visits and tests, your doctor, coordinating with your other clinicians, will monitor for possible side effects of radiation, which occasionally show up after radiation is completed.
As part of your ongoing survivorship plan, the team also will recommend healthy behaviors, preventive measures, and information on resources and referrals to other care providers when appropriate.
Request an Appointment
Referring physicians and caregivers with questions about proton therapy and its appropriateness for their child patient's cancers can schedule a consultation with a Winship radiation oncology expert by calling 1-833-3PROTON (1-833-377-6866).