Proton Therapy for Breast Cancer

Contact Us

Phone: 206.306.2800

Request a Call from a Patient Care Coordinator 

If you would rather have a patient care coordinator reach out to you, please take a moment to fill out our form to schedule an information call.


Proton therapy is a precise form of radiation treatment that targets your tumor without delivering harmful excess radiation to the surrounding tissue. This allows your physician to treat the cancer while helping protect the heart and lungs because protecting these vital organs is practically as important as treating your tumor.

Aimée’s Plan/ Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - Proton Therapy

"It’s important to be proactive with your care. Ask questions throughout treatment, so that you understand your options and the process and ultimately feel more informed as you make decisions."

— Tina, breast cancer patient

Tough on Your Tumor. Easier on Your Body.

Standard X-ray radiation therapy for breast cancer has helped save lives for decades. But it can also send a dose of radiation to nearby healthy tissue. This can lead to side effects, like coronary artery disease, lung scarring, secondary cancers (cancers that are caused by treatment) and higher risk of major heart events later in life. On top of this, some chemotherapy can be toxic to the heart, raising risks even more. 

Until recently, patients and physicians accepted these side effects as a trade-off for treating the cancer. But with proton radiation therapy, we can reduce the risks. Proton therapy sends radiation to your tumor very accurately. The goal is for less radiation to reach your healthy tissue nearby.

breast scan
These pictures show treatment for breast cancer. The colored areas get radiation. The black, gray and white areas do not. With proton therapy (left), less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation. With standard X-ray radiation therapy (right), more healthy tissue is exposed.

Proton therapy uses a unique feature of protons: They give off the most radiation right before they come to a stop. Then the radiation falls to zero. That’s how we target treatment to your cancer and no further.

If you have breast cancer, the radiation oncologists at our proton therapy facility can decide if proton therapy is right for you and tell you more about this option.

Bragg Peak Graph
With X-ray radiation therapy (dark blue line), the radiation dose peaks soon after entering the body. Then it gradually decreases, often long before reaching the tumor. Healthy tissue around the tumor receives much of the dose instead. With proton therapy (medium blue and purple lines), treatment conforms more closely to the tumor. This means less radiation is deposited in the healthy tissue in front of the tumor compared to X-ray therapy. Almost none is deposited in the healthy tissue beyond the tumor.

Pencil-Beam Scanning

Our radiation oncologists use pencil-beam scanning (PBS) to treat patients with proton therapy. PBS “paints” the tumor with a lot of very thin, very exact beams of protons. The beams are accurate down to millimeters. PBS sends very fast pulses of protons to each planned spot within the tumor until the entire cancer is treated. This method can lower the amount of radiation to healthy tissue even more.

Proton Therapy Facts

  • Many people with breast cancer are good candidates for proton therapy. You may be able to have proton therapy even if you need radiation to lymph nodes, if you already have a heart or lung condition or if you need treatment near your heart and lungs.
  • Radiation to the heart raises the risk of heart problems later in life by 7.4 percent per gray (a unit of radiation). Compared to X-ray radiation, proton therapy lowers the amount of radiation that reaches your heart and other tissue and organs nearby.
  • Treatments are safe, noninvasive (no cuts to your skin are needed) and painless for most patients, helping you recover faster and keep living your life.
  • Proton therapy may be an option for you even if you’ve already had radiation for cancer. In fact, it may be your only option for getting more radiation treatment.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved proton therapy for clinical use in 1988. More than 200,000 people worldwide have had this form of treatment.

Learn More

Find a Provider

Our proton therapy team is here not only to treat your disease, but to listen to you and take care of you and your family. They are experts in proton therapy who focus on giving you personalized treatment and who understand your questions, needs and concerns.