Breast cancer treatment
The Radiotherapy Department at the UMCG treats about 750 patients with breast cancer every year. During this treatment, modern radiation techniques using photons (IMRT) are used. From the end of 2017 onwards, the UMCG will be able to treat tumours with proton irradiation therapy. This proton therapy can in principle also be used in breast cancer.
Proton therapy in breast cancer
When radiotherapy is used, radiation always involves, to some extent, surrounding healthy organs that do not need to be irradiated. During radiation therapy for breast cancer this unwanted radiation specifically involves the heart, the lungs and possibly the other breast. As a result of this, radiation damage can occur during, after, or in some cases even years after this treatment.
Modern radiation techniques that use photons are already capable of reducing high doses of radiation in these healthy organs. Proton Therapy can in some cases offer the possibility of reducing radiation in healthy organs even further thus lowering the risk of late side effects.
The images below represent a comparison between a photon and a proton irradiation plan for a patient with abnormal chest anatomy (a so called funnel chest).
Comparison of photon radiation therapy to Proton radiation therapy
In the photon irradiation plan (left image) the healthy organs (heart, lungs and other breast) are exposed to intermediate and low levels of radiation (the light pink and light blue areas). In the proton irradiation plan (right image) the healthy organs (heart, lungs and other breast) receive less to no radiation.
When do you qualify for proton therapy?
Not every patient with breast cancer will benefit more from a proton plan. . Especially in patients where irradiation with photons is associated with an increased risk of damage to the healthy organs, proton irradiation will be considered. To determine whether you might benefit from proton therapy, two possible radiation treatment plans will be created for you prior to your treatment: one plan using photons and one plan using protons. For both treatment plans, calculations are done to establish the likelihood of side effects occurring. On this basis a decision will be made about which radiation treatment will be best for you.
When will this proton treatment be available in Groningen?
We expect that the first patients with breast cancer can be treated with proton therapy at the UMC Groningen Proton Therapy Centre in the end of 2017. The centre , is part of the UMCG Radiotherapy Department. Proton treatment is not available at the Emmen site of the UMCG Radiotherapy Department.
These Radiotherapy-Oncologists and Physician Assistants (PA) at the Radiotherapy Department are all specialists in breast cancer treatment.