Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer
For breast cancer patients, proton therapy has the potential to lead to fewer short- and long-term side effects, particularly to the heart, lung and lymphatic channels. Physicians at MPTC use the most advanced form of proton therapy, known as pencil-beam scanning, to target breast cancer tumors and deliver radiation with unmatched precision.
Since proton therapy stops at the tumor site, it minimizes damage to healthy tissue. This reduces the risk of complications, including the possibility of secondary cancers, cardiac damage or lung exposure.
“It was wonderful – the best experience I’ve had medically. The staff talk and joke with you, they constantly keep you updated,” says Maryland Proton Treatment Center Patient Sandy Burkart. Read her story here.
Breast cancers we treat with proton therapy:
- Early-stage and locally advanced breast cancers (up to stage 3)
- Ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS)
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Recurrent breast cancer
- Triple-negative breast cancer
Breast Cancer Patients Who May Benefit from Proton Therapy
Some women with breast cancer will have a greater benefit from proton therapy than others, such as the following:
- Patients with left-sided breast cancers: Because of the heart’s proximity to the breast, chest wall, and internal mammary lymph nodes, most women with left-sided breast cancer who are treated with radiation therapy receive some dose of radiation to the heart. Proton therapy can dramatically reduce radiation exposure to the heart and coronary vessels.
- Patients with right-sided breast cancers receiving irradiation to their lymph nodes: While photon therapy has been shown to deliver a clinically significant radiation dose to the heart and right coronary artery in these cases, proton therapy’s precise targeting spares the heart and surrounding tissue.
- Patients who have had prior chest radiation therapy: When any part of the body is radiated a second time, the risk of short- and long-term side effects increases. For this reason, patients who have previously received radiation to the chest from prior cancers (breast, lung, lymphoma, etc.) are often good candidates for proton therapy’s precision targeting.
- Patients with disease recurrence: Patients who have a recurrence of their disease in the chest wall/breast or lymph node regions can benefit from proton therapy in two ways. First, proton therapy can aim a higher dose of radiation at the site of the recurrence, potentially leading to improved outcomes. Second, proton therapy’s precision can reduce the radiation dose that surrounding normal tissues, including the heart and lungs, receive.
- Young patients: Breast cancer is usually a highly curable condition, which means many patients will live long enough to experience long-term side effects from radiation therapy. While there is no threshold below which radiation is risk free, proton therapy can expose a smaller volume of tissue to radiation, offering a benefit for patients with long life expectancies.
- Patients with cardiac comorbidities: Many breast cancer patients have preexisting cardiac comorbidities; additionally, many women receive cardio-toxic chemotherapy treatment. Because proton therapy spares cardiac tissue, it can be beneficial for these patients.
To learn more about the benefits of proton therapy for breast cancer, watch this short video below:
Learn more about proton therapy
Request a consultation below to learn if proton therapy might benefit you. Our physicians will work with you and your care team to create your personalized treatment plan.
Currently, proton therapy is only being used for non-metastatic breast cancer, but clinical trials are being conducted on metastatic breast cancer. To learn more about participating in a trial, talk with your physician during your initial consultation.
To view a webinar on how proton therapy treats women’s cancers differently, please click on the video below.