Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is among the most common cancers in the United States and can develop in both women and men. Ongoing innovations and medical advancements in breast cancer treatment, such as proton therapy, offer hope to patients and families. Proton therapy for breast cancer delivers high doses of radiation directly to tumors, reducing recurrence rates and side effects for many breast cancer cases.

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Benefits of Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs in a sensitive area of the body with several nearby organs. Proton therapy for breast cancer involves targeted proton beams that can deliver high doses of radiation to destroy cancerous cells. The precise treatment minimizes exposure to the heart, lungs, and healthy tissue near the breast.

Notable benefits of proton treatment for breast cancer:

  • Proton therapy is a non-invasive treatment for breast cancer patients, including following lumpectomy or mastectomy
  • Women and men treated with proton therapy for breast cancer may have increased tolerance for chemotherapy.
  • Because proton beam therapy is a highly precise form of radiation therapy for breast cancer, it is sometimes used as a targeted therapy for breast cancer areas that have already been treated with radiation and may reduce long-term side effects to the heart.
  • Proton therapy may also be used in select cases in which cancer has recurred following surgery or it has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Proton treatment for breast cancer may reduce side effects, helping patients maintain their current quality of life during and after treatment.
  • A patient’s hormone receptor status does not affect their candidacy for receiving proton therapy. This includes patients who are ER, PR positive or negative; Her2Neu positive or negative; triple positive, or triple negative.

Pencil-Beam Scanning

Only a few centers in the country offer an advanced technology called pencil-beam scanning – and Texas Center for Proton Therapy is one of them. Pencil-beam scanning is ideal for patients with tumors in sensitive areas, such as breast cancer, because it uses an ultra-fine proton beam with pencil-point precision to delicately apply the radiation to the sensitive area.

Proton Therapy

Conventional X-Ray Therapy

 

Red: High Radiation Dose | Green: Intermediate Radiation Dose | Blue: Low Radiation Dose

Your Initial Consultation

The first step to determine if you are a proton therapy candidate is to schedule an initial consultation. Your doctor can make a referral, or you can make an appointment yourself by calling 469-513-5500.

Prior to your visit, a member of Texas Center for Proton Therapy’s care team will call to discuss what to expect and bring. You will meet with a physician, who will determine if proton therapy is the right cancer treatment for you. If you qualify for treatment, you will get all the information you need to make your proton treatment as smooth as possible.

If you are traveling from out of town, the Patient Support Services staff can help you arrange travel and lodging. Learn more what to expect for your first appointment.

The CT Simulation

If you are a candidate for proton therapy treatment, you will receive a CT simulation. This process may happen on your initial consultation day or be scheduled for later, depending on your unique circumstances. Used for treatment planning, a CT simulation is an imaging process done before treatment to determine the exact location, shape, and size of the tumor.

The Treatment Process

Your physician and nursing staff will provide instructions for your first proton therapy treatment. Timing and duration varies depending on the patient and type of cancer. A typical cycle includes daily treatments, Monday through Friday, for six to eight weeks.

Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among American women. Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease. Steady declines in mortality among women since 1989 have been attributed to a combination of early detection and improvements in treatment.

Breast Cancer Statistics

  • In the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • In the U.S. in 2020, 276,480 women and 2,620 men are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
  • In 2020, breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 42,170 women and 520 men in the U.S.
  • In Texas in 2020, an estimated 18,478 new cases of female and male breast cancer are expected, with 3,288 deaths.
You do not need a doctor’s referral to be seen at Texas Center for Proton Therapy.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

  • Age: Most invasive breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
  • Family History: Women with an immediate family member (mother, sister, daughter) who has had breast cancer are nearly twice as likely to develop the disease. A close male relative with the disease also raises risk. If you have a family history of cancer, breast cancer, genetic testing may help determine risk.
  • Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk, especially after menopause.
  • Breast Conditions: Women with dense breast tissue and some benign breast conditions are at higher risk.
  • Menstrual Cycles: Starting menstruation early (before age 12) or completing menopause late (after age 55) raises risk.
  • Radiation: Radiation to the chest for another cancer is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
  • DES Exposure: Women who were exposed or had mothers exposed to diethylstilbestrol have a slightly higher risk.

Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Women are encouraged to consult their physician immediately for evaluation if any of the following signs and symptoms are present. The signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women, and some women show no signs in early stages.

  • A lump in the breast, under the arm, or around collarbone
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Thickening of breast or underarm
  • Nipple retraction or nipple discharge
  • Dimpled skin or skin resembling orange peel
  • Tenderness or pain in breast or nipple
  • Irritation, redness, scaliness, or swelling on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple

Breast Cancer Stages

Tests to diagnose and stage breast cancer may include lymph node evaluation, surgery, and sentinel lymph node dissection.

  • Stage I: The cancer is confined to a limited area of the breast.
  • Stage IIA: The cancer is less than two centimeters has spread to the underarm lymph nodes, or the cancer measures 2-5 centimeters, but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIB: The cancer has spread to the underarm lymph nodes and/or measures larger than 5 centimeters, but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIIA: The cancer is less than 5 centimeters and has spread to the underarm lymph nodes, or the lymph nodes and/or other structures are attached to each other, or the cancer is larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the underarm lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIIB: The cancer has spread to internal lymph nodes on the same side of the chest or involves the chest wall.
  • Inflammatory: This rare, fast-spreading class of breast cancer includes external signs of red appearance and warmth, showing inflammation. Ridges, pits, and/or welts may appear on the skin.
  • Stage IV: The cancer involves organs outside of the breast, including the lymph nodes.
  • Recurrent/Relapsed: The cancer has returned (recurred/relapsed) following treatment.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but women can take steps to decrease risk and/or improve early detection of the disease. Screening recommendations are for women with average risk.

It is important to discuss with a physician your individual risk factors, including age, menopausal status, and family history to determine your screening needs.

  • Screening
    • Women should understand their risk as some women with a family history of breast cancer or known to be of higher risk should start screening early and can take other preventative measures.
    • Women should check their breasts monthly. Report any changes to a physician immediately.
    • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years.  
    • Women in their 30s should discuss their breast cancer risk level with a physician to determine the most appropriate cancer screening options, including mammograms and MRI screenings.  
    • Women age 40 and older should discuss individual risk factors with a physician to determine recommended timing and most appropriate screenings, including annual mammogram, annual clinical breast exam, and annual MRI screening.
    • Women age 50 and older should have a mammogram and a clinical breast exam at least every two years after discussion with her physician, and if recommended by a physician, an annual MRI screening.
  • Lifestyle
    • Regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Higher Risk
    • Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physicians. If genetic tests indicate a woman has a genetic disorder that will increase her risk of breast cancer, like the BRCA, there are a number of risk reduction strategies to discuss with her physician.
    • Women with a first degree relative who had breast cancer before age 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.

Dr. Jared Sturgeon Stresses Importance of Mammograms

Dr. Jared Sturgeon, radiation oncologist at Texas Center for Proton Therapy, highlights the important role of mammograms to detect breast cancer early.

Proton Therapy Beneficial for Those With Recurrent Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Dr. Sturgeon overviews risk factors for breast cancer and why proton therapy is a good treatment option not only for someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer, but also for patients who have recurrent disease or even existing heart or lung issues.

Breast Cancer Treatment Options

Anyone with breast cancer should consult with a medical oncologist to determine his or her specific treatment needs. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, proton therapy, targeted therapy, bone-modifying therapy, immunotherapy, or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

It is important to note that a patient’s hormone receptor status does not affect their candidacy for receiving proton therapy. This includes patients who are ER, PR positive or negative; Her2Neu positive or negative; triple positive, or triple negative.

Request An Appointment

Texas Center for Proton Therapy is ready to help you fight cancer with one of the nation’s most advanced cancer-fighting technologies. You do not need a doctor's referral to be seen at the center.

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