Most of us are overwhelmed and filled with fear when we hear the word “Cancer.” Of course this is to be expected when we experience difficult periods in our lives. When we feel we have lost control of what we consider normal, we walk through many stages to arrive at a new normal.
As we begin the journey towards our “new normal,” there are usually tests, doctor’s appointments and treatments in our future. We look for areas of our lives that we can control throughout this process. And with that two of the most frequently asked questions at Provision Center for Proton Therapy are: “When will my treatments start?” and “How many treatments will I have?”
As part of Provision’s clinical care team, we take these questions seriously. We have made a commitment to our patients and to the community to offer the highest standards of cancer care. We want our patients to have the best treatment available for their diagnosis, and we want to help minimize the stress and anxiety involved in going to the doctor.
When will my treatments start?
There are many factors involved in planning for a proton therapy treatment. When someone diagnosed with cancer calls our center, wondering if they may be a proton candidate, several things begin to happen. Either our care coordinators or one of our physicians will have a detailed conversation with the prospective patient or the referring physician. We will also request the individual’s medical records for our review.
When we receive medical records, our physicians will review and discuss them and decide if proton therapy is the best option for this individual. If the physicians agree the individual is candidate for proton therapy, our care coordinators will call the perspective patient to come in for a consultation and physical exam. In addition, our financial team will begin speaking with their insurance company.
When a prospective patient comes in for a consultation, they may be at our facility for two to three hours. Though this seems like a long time, it is not actual ‘waiting’ time. A nurse, doctor, clinical research nurse and a member of our financial team will speak with the individual if necessary. We want to help our patients’ treatment to go smoothly, therefore, gathering information and educating the patient is very important. At this point, our physicians will be ready to decide if proton therapy is the best treatment for this individual.
It is likely that most patients will need additional tests or scans before we begin their actual treatment planning. Our clinical staff will work closely with our patients to schedule tests at the most convenient times possible. Treatment planning can take a few days up to two weeks depending on the diagnosis and the complexity of the treatment plan.
It is very important that we communicate openly. We want our patients to tell us what they are looking for in a timeline for treatment, and we will try to meet that expectation as closely as we can. At times we may have patients waiting to start their treatment at a later date, but we would never ask anyone to wait if it weren’t completely safe for them to do so. This is definitely a subject that patients, physicians and the clinical team must work closely on together.
How many treatments will I have?
Just like the treatment start date, there are several factors that determine how many treatments a patient will receive. Every patient is a unique individual, and even with the same diagnosis, no patient is treated exactly the same. We must take into consideration: diagnosis, staging, size, peripheral tissue and organ structures and other medical conditions.
The physician will write a prescription for proton therapy, just like regular prescriptions that are used for receiving medication. This prescription will state the physician’s desired dose for treatment, number of treatments, and the targeted area of treatment for their patient.
Our physicians, medical physicists and dosimetrists will work together on a treatment plan that is customized for each patient. Only the physicians will be able to inform our patients of exactly how many treatments they will need.
Every patient is different, so every treatment is different. Our physicians will take as much time as necessary to explain this to every patient and answer all of their questions during their visit at Provision Center for Proton Therapy.
Each and every patient is important to our team. Our goal for our patients, while they are here, is not only to treat their body but their mind and soul as well. When their treatments are complete, we hope that they can begin their “new normal” with health and wellness.
For more information on whether proton therapy is right for you, please call (865) 862-1600. Click here to subscribe to our “Proton Post” newsletter.
Susan Stinnett is the Director of Clinical Services for Provision Center for Proton Therapy and has been a radiation therapist for 17 years and a clinical leader for 5 years.