Proton Therapy for Ocular Melanoma

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Proton therapy is an advanced treatment that delivers radiation to the exact size, shape and depth of your ocular tumor. It allows your physician to treat your tumor without removing your eye. Another goal of proton therapy is to do less harm to the healthy parts of your eye.

UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - Proton Therapy Collaborate to Treat Ocular Cancers

"Having cancer has been a difficult, emotional time, and everyone at the proton therapy facility has brought me peace of mind and helped make the experience much better than it could have been. It is something I will never forget."

— Amy, ocular cancer patient

Tough on Your Tumor. Easier on Your Body.

Proton therapy is considered a standard of care for ocular melanomas. Studies show that long-term survival rates for patients who are treated with protons are just as good as rates for patients who have their eye removed or have brachytherapy, with less impact on healthy tissue. 

With standard X-ray radiation therapy, the radiation dose is highest right where the X-rays enter your body. The X-rays keep giving off radiation as they go through your tumor and the tissue beyond. With proton radiation therapy, treatment is sent right to the tumor. The goal is for less radiation to reach your healthy tissue nearby.

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 tumor and no further.

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.

Based on the details of your tumor, proton therapy could help preserve your eye, cornea, lens, retina, fovea and optic nerve. This could mean you recover faster and have fewer short- and long-term side effects.

If you have ocular melanoma, the radiation oncologists at our proton therapy facility will work with your eye specialist to make a personal treatment plan for you.

Pencil-Beam Scanning

Our radiation oncologists use pencil-beam scanning (PBS) to treat patients with proton therapy. PBS “paints” your tumor with a lot of very thin, very precise 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

  • For years, physicians treated ocular melanomas by removing the eye. Now, proton therapy is the gold standard for treatment. It offers the same long-term survival rates as taking out the eye or using brachytherapy, with less impact on healthy tissue.
  • Appointments usually take 15–60 minutes. You do not need to stay overnight in a hospital and can go on with your normal routine before and after each visit.
  • 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.

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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.

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