Proton Therapy | Hackensack Meridian Health   

Proton Therapy 

Proton therapy is a unique type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons. Protons deliver radiation to a specific depth in the body, and then they stop. They can be precisely controlled so most of their radiation ends up directly in the tumor. 

Compared with standard x-ray radiation, protons deliver up to 60% less radiation to healthy tissue around a tumor. This is especially important when a tumor is located near critical organs or structures such as the brain, heart or spinal cord.

Pencil Beam Scanning (“PBS”) Proton Therapy, the most advanced form of proton therapy, uses an ultra-narrow proton beam that allows physicians to precisely “paint” the tumor with radiation, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissue and further reducing the risk of side effects. This is the form of proton therapy offered by our radiation oncology team.

Proton therapy is effective for treating many types of cancers as well as some non-cancerous tumors. It may be an option for some patients with these types of cancers:

  • Brain Tumors
  • Breast Cancers
  • Gastrointestinal Cancers
  • Head and Neck Tumors
  • Lung Tumors
  • Lymphomas
  • Pediatric Tumors
  • Previously Irradiated Tissues
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Testicular Cancers
  • Tumors near the Spine

Proton therapy is not for everyone. If radiation therapy is an option for you, your care team will help you determine the most appropriate treatment for your cancer.

Proton Therapy for Children

Proton therapy can be especially beneficial for children, who can experience more serious short- and long-term side effects from x-ray radiation than adults. Since their bodies are still growing, children are more sensitive to healthy tissue damage caused by x-rays. Clinical studies suggest that proton therapy reduces the risk of growth and developmental problems, as well as secondary tumors.

Prior to starting your proton therapy, your radiation oncologist will obtain CT, MRI or PET scan images of your tumor. These images are used to define the positioning of the tumor and healthy tissue structures around the tumor. This allows your radiation oncologist to precisely target the tumor and deliver the radiation dose while minimizing dose delivered to healthy tissue nearby.

Proton therapy treatments take a similar amount of time relative to x-ray based therapies - typically about 30 minutes, though this can vary based on the area being treated. Positioning is very important with this treatment so most of the time will be spent making sure you are in the specific position needed to receive treatment. Only a couple of minutes are needed to deliver the radiation itself, which is similar to receiving an x-ray.

The frequency and duration of treatments will depend upon your specific needs. Your radiation oncologist will be able to provide more information regarding your specific treatment plan.

Patients at John Theurer Cancer Center and affiliate locations throughout Hackensack Meridian Health who receive proton therapy travel to ProCure NJ for their treatments.

ProCure NJ
103 Cedar Grove Lane
Somerset, NJ 08873

Timothy H. Chen, M.D., is a fellowship-trained radiation oncologist who specializes in the use of proton therapy.

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