My experience with proton beam therapy & breast cancer
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2016 – Stage 1A, triple positive, 1.5 cm, left breast, sentinel lymph node was negative. I chose lumpetcomy with radiation. I want to share my information to let women know that if you need radiation, the option you might want to consider is Pronton Beam. I live in Minnesota and had interviewed University of Minnesota, Piper Breast Center and Mayo Clinic. They all offered the same treatment which is called respiratory gating which means they take a CT scan of your body resting and then breathing and for most people your left lung and heart move out of the way for the radiation; however, for me, that was not the case. The radiation oncologist informed me that they would have to radiate 5% of my heart, 20% of my left lung and 7 ribs. I am healthy, not on any medications, BRACA I and II negative and was not going to subject myself to this option. I started researching options and found Proton Beam. Proton Beam has been used for over 10 years to treat pediatric brain tumors and prostrate cancer as well as other cancers. Proton Beam has been studied in Stage III breast cancer but not Stage 1 and II. Northwestern Chicago Proton Beam Center was in the processing of conducting a study for Stage I and II and they accepted me as a patient. I was so grateful because Proton Beam will only radiate the tumor bed and not your heart, lung or ribs. The treatment was once a day for 10 days vs. the other option once a day for 6 weeks. We know that radiation to our bodies leads to long term issues such as secondary cancers. Therefore, Proton Beam is the best option if you need radiation. When I was at the Proton Center in Warrenville, IL, my doctor informed me that Mayo Clinic would be getting the Proton Beam; however, I am not sure if they are using it for breast cancer. I hope this information is helpful for women who need radiation and what I have learned through my journey is you need to be an advocate for your health and please get two or three opinions before making a decision. In fact, all three institutions did not tell me about Proton Beam as an option I had to research and learn it on my own. Lastly, remember that your cancer will be treated with traditional options – chemo, radiation, surgery – but that is only part of the treatment option because you also need to change your lifestyle – diet, exercise, etc. – to kill those circulating cancer cells and prevent a reoccurrence in the future.