Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, every year more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. As part of an innovative cancer care network, the team at Northwestern Medicine Proton Center can help you understand your diagnosis and the advantages of proton therapy.

For decades, conventional breast radiotherapy cancer treatment has helped save the lives of many women. Even with its great success, conventional breast radiotherapy can expose the heart, lungs and other organs to unnecessary radiation. The result can include side effects such as coronary artery disease, lung scarring and secondary malignancies.1,2 In most cases, these side effects are accepted as a given part of appropriate cancer treatment. However, proton therapy represents the latest advancements in cancer treatment, conforming to the shape of the tumor and reducing radiation damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.

The Proton Center is one of the few proton therapy centers throughout the Midwest and the only one in Illinois. Our team is dedicated to explaining all of your treatment options for breast cancer and facilitating a conversation with you and your physician or oncologist to determine the best course of treatment for you.

To learn if you can benefit from proton therapy, call 1.877.887.5807 or fill out our online form.

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Watch a Video: Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer To learn more about other tumor types, visit our Video Library.

Advantages of Proton Therapy in Locally Advanced Stage III Breast Cancer

Proton therapy has unique attributes that reduce radiation exposure to normal, healthy organs.3,4 Protons can be controlled with greater precision than X-rays and conform to the shape of the tumor, meaning that more energy goes into destroying the cancer and less radiation is delivered to surrounding tissue.8 This is especially important in left-sided breast cancer, for which the treatment field may include critical organs such as the heart and the lungs. As the data to the left shows, patients with left-sided breast cancer are more likely than patients with right-sided breast cancer to develop cardiovascular diseases after receiving radiation treatment.

Additionally, in a dosimetric study of breast cancer where proton therapy was compared to traditional radiation,4,5 proton therapy significantly reduces radiation to normal tissues. Lung and heart doses were compared to 3-D conformal radiotherapy (3-D CRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) with considerable improvement.

These remarkable results demonstrate the value of proton therapy for women who are concerned about the potential side effects from radiation treatment and underscore the impact of proton therapy as one of the latest advancements in cancer treatment.

The image to the left shows the amount of radiation that the body receives during treatment for advanced breast cancer with proton therapy in comparison to X-ray or photon therapy treatment. Colors indicate areas of the body that received radiation. Compared to X-ray, proton therapy significantly reduced the dose of radiation to the heart and surrounding healthy tissue.

Proton CenterProton Center

A Phase II Clinical Trial for Breast Cancer

The Proton Center is among the first to provide proton therapy cancer treatment to patients with locally advanced breast cancer who have undergone either breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy.6 Our team is here to help you fight your breast cancer with a powerful tool that could spare more healthy tissue.

You may be eligible for and benefit the most from proton therapy if you:5,7

  • Have breast cancer involving the lymph nodes
  • Have other risk factors that indicate the inclusion of lymph node irradiation
  • Will be receiving cardiotoxic chemotherapy, such as doxorubicin or trastuzumab
  • Have preexisting vascular comorbidity, cardiac disease, lung disease, or increased risk of developing a secondary malignancy
  • Have anatomy that places normal organs at elevated risk of radiation exposure

Learn more about clinical trials for proton therapy.

A male proton therapy physician discussing proton therapy with a female patient. 

What to Expect with Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is considered safe, non-invasive and painless. Depending on the patient's diagnosis, the typical course of treatment for breast cancer is 30 sessions over the course of six weeks.

Patients continue with normal activities before and after treatment. Some patients choose to work; others go on a “radiation vacation” and spend their days doing recreational activities before or after treatment.

Learn more about what to expect when getting treated.

Patient Stories

Read what our patients have to say about their proton therapy treatment and how proton therapy and our staff impacted their lives.

Read more

Contact Us

To discover if you or a loved one could benefit from proton therapy, please call us at 877.887.5807 (TTY 711).

Request Information