Before Treatment Begins

Will I need additional tests before my treatments begin?

During your consultation visit to the center, your doctor may decide that additional tests are needed to plan your treatment. Tests can include blood work, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

How do I arrange for additional tests?

Your nurse will help coordinate and schedule any tests you need. If you do not have a local healthcare provider, the Center will arrange for your treatments at one of our nearby affiliates. The Chicago Proton Center is affiliated with Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

If I take additional tests during consultation, how will I find out the results?

If you have additional tests done at the time of your consultation, your Care Team nurse will contact you to inform you of the results.

What other preparations are needed?

After you’ve had your consultation and any additional tests you may need, you will be scheduled to come to the Center for a CT scan. The scan is used to gather images of your tumor from many angles so that your doctor and other experts in proton therapy can “see” it clearly and pinpoint its exact location, shape and size. The CT images will be used to construct a customized treatment plan for you.

Scheduling Your Treatments

When will I begin my proton therapy?

You will begin your proton therapy after your customized treatment plan is complete, which may take up to two weeks from the day of your consultation. A member of your Care Team will contact you to schedule your first treatment session. Your schedule will depend on which treatment room is right for you. We will work with you to select a treatment time that works for your schedule, and at the end of each week you will be given a treatment schedule for the following week.

During Your Treatment

What will happen during the therapy session?

Your radiation therapist will have everything ready for you before treatment begins. You will lie on a treatment bed and your therapists will make adjustments to be certain you are properly positioned for each treatment session. Since proton therapy is precise, you must lie in a specific position to ensure the proton beam reaches its target. You will be asked to lie still during setup and while the proton beam is on. Your Care Team will determine your proper positioning and you will automatically be moved into position before each treatment. Members of your Care Team will be on hand to support you throughout your therapy session.

What will I feel during my therapy?

Most patients don't feel anything during treatment.

How long will my treatment sessions take?

The time spent actually delivering the protons to the tumor is about one minute. The entire treatment session can range from 15 to 60 minutes as final checks are made and you are moved into position on a treatment bed. You also may be asked to come to the Center ahead of your scheduled treatment time for pretreatment preparations such as changing into a gown or robe.

Will my family and friends be able to come with me to proton therapy?

We welcome your family and friends at the Center any time, though they cannot accompany you into the treatment room. We have a comfortable waiting area for your family and friends while you receive treatment.

Will I see my radiation oncologist every day during my treatment visit?

You will be scheduled to meet your radiation oncologist once a week (every five treatments) for a checkup and to document your progress. If you need to see your doctor more frequently or have questions, please do not hesitate to speak to your Care Team nurse who will help you and coordinate additional visits when necessary.

Learn more about proton therapy treatment.

Concerns About Side Effects

Will there be side effects of proton therapy?

One of the most important benefits of proton therapy is that patients have fewer side effects than with standard radiation because there is less damage to healthy tissue. Most people have no side effects or they are very mild. Before treatment begins, your doctor will discuss possible side effects you may have. Your Care Team nurse will help you manage side effects if they do occur.

Will I lose my hair?

Most proton patients do not experience hair loss. However, every case is different, especially if the patient is receiving other treatments such as chemotherapy at the same time.

Will I be tired during therapy?

Your illness may cause you to feel tired, but in most cases, patients who receive proton therapy are able to continue their normal routines after their daily treatment.

I am very active. Can I continue to exercise during my treatment?

Please discuss your fitness routine with your doctor or other members of your Care Team. In most instances, you will be encouraged to continue to exercise, but it should be discussed with your Care Team to be certain you will not overexert yourself.

Should I change my diet or take supplements before my treatment starts?

You should consult with your Care Team doctor or nurse before making changes in your diet or taking supplements. The Center also has a registered dietician on staff who can help you plan a diet that is right for you.

Other Medical Needs

What if I need treatment in addition to proton therapy or get sick with another illness not related to my tumor?

Your Care Team nurse will assist you in getting any additional medical care you need.

Will there be coordination with my local doctor?

Collaboration is an essential part of our process. We will ask you to provide us with your local doctor’s contact information so we can share copies of your records and keep your doctor informed of your progress. We will continue to follow up with your doctor after your therapy is complete.

Connecting With Other Patients

Can I get in touch with other proton therapy patients?

Yes. We can put you in contact with a number of proton patients who are happy to share their experiences with you. Please let the Patient Services Team know that you have this interest, and they will make sure you are connected to the support you need. Our Patient Services Team is available Monday through Friday during regular Center hours. We also host a weekly patient graduation where you can meet other patients who are having proton therapy and people who have completed their therapy.

Visit our Twitter and Facebook pages for more information and support in the proton therapy community.

How can I become a mentor to other patients?

If you would like to share your experiences and support others who are considering proton therapy, please contact a member of our Patient Services Team at 877.366.9206.