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Frequently Asked Questions

How does proton radiation differ from traditional photon radiation?

Traditional radiation X-ray beams travel through the body to the tumor site, destroying healthy tissue along the path. The heavy charge of proton particles allows the tumor to be more precisely targeted. Since most of the energy is deposited at the tumor site, nearby healthy tissue remains unharmed.

What types of cancers are treated with proton therapy?

Proton therapy is most successful in treating localized tumors that have not spread to other areas. Ackerman Cancer Center treats a wide-range of cancers with proton therapy technology.

Proton therapy can also be combined with other forms of cancer treatment. A consultation is needed to thoroughly review all treatment options for your specific diagnosis.

Why choose Ackerman Cancer Center for proton therapy?

When you compare Ackerman Cancer Center to other proton therapy facilities, think of the cell phones in use today versus the phones used 10 years ago. Yesterday's mobile phone was larger, clunkier, with fewer productive features. However, much like a sleek, new smartphone, our MEVION technology results in a reliable, precise machine. Ultimately, this reliability ensures that all treatments are delivered safely and effectively. It creates a more robust cancer treatment plan that keeps our patients on track with the care they need, when they need it.

The entire Ackerman Cancer Center team is committed to providing the most efficient, most effective cancer care to each and every patient. We are a small, patient-centered private practice, which means you can count on 24/7 access to our physicians, as well as same- or next-day diagnostic imaging and test results. You’ll find that our Board Certified physicians, Board Certified radiation physicists, oncology certified nurses, certified medical dosimetrists, radiation therapists and social workers work together to provide the highest quality cancer care delivered with compassion and understanding.

Proton therapy is available at the Jacksonville facility, which is conveniently located near major highways, quality lodging, beaches, restaurants and shopping. The facility offers easy access parking and a pleasant, comfortable setting.

How long has Ackerman Cancer Center been treating with proton therapy?

Ackerman Cancer Center began treating patients with proton beam therapy in 2015. We sustain a proton therapy treatment schedule of approximately 30 patients each day. 

Prior to our first proton therapy treatment, our radiation therapists, medical physicists, dosimetrists, and support staff attended educational seminars at existing proton therapy centers and underwent extensive training protocols regarding the MEVION S250 technology and its software.

Beyond proton therapy, medical director Dr. Scot Ackerman has more than 25 years' experience in the field of radiation oncology. Learn more about Dr. Ackerman and his fellow physicians here.

What can I expect before and during proton therapy treatment?

Following a consultation with one of the Center’s radiation oncologists, you will undergo a simulation. During this process, the proton planning team will mark the specific treatment areas. Treatment will begin approximately one week after the simulation and continue daily, Monday through Friday, for several weeks, depending on your cancer type.

To administer treatment, a radiation therapist will position you on a table and perform a CT scan to ensure you are properly aligned for the prescribed dose of radiation. The therapist will remain in the control area throughout the treatment process monitoring your progress through a TV monitor and communicating via intercom. Treatment time is approximately 20 minutes for a basic treatment with complex treatments requiring more time.

Proton therapy is painless. Most patients continue to work and enjoy physical activity throughout the treatment regimen.

How does the MEVION S250 Proton Therapy System differ from proton systems at larger institutions?

The main difference here is size. Proton therapy treatment on the MEVION S250 one-room system is just as effective as the treatment a patient would receive on a larger machine at a university or institutional hospital. In fact, the MEVION S250 Synchrocyclotron produces 250 Mega-electronvolt (MeV) protons, giving it the ability to reach a tumor tucked deeper within the body than a large machine with protons of 230 MeV can. That means Ackerman Cancer Center has never turned a patient away due to their size.

Instead of using a proton beam nozzle that rotates around the patient, our MEVION S250 unit has a robotic couch that can move the patient in six different dimensions: up, down, right, left, and side to side. This 6D couch allows us to position our patients with submillimeter accuracy each time they come in for treatment.

As clinical studies continue to show the benefits of proton therapy compared to conventional radiation methods, major proton therapy manufacturers have begun to develop more compact and efficient treatment systems. By decreasing the size of these units, manufacturers like Mevion are able to offer institutions the same state-of-the-art technology without sacrificing quality. This ultimately makes the revolutionary treatment of Proton Therapy accessible to more patients across the country and throughout the Jacksonville and Amelia Island communities.

Does proton therapy pose a radiation risk to others?

No residual radiation remains in your body after treatment, so others are not at risk.

Does insurance cover proton therapy?

Medicare and most major insurance providers do cover proton therapy treatments for diagnoses deemed medically necessary. Ackerman Cancer Center accepts most major medical plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid. A financial resource coordinator is available to assist patients in navigating the sometimes confusing insurance process.

What if I want proton therapy treatment but I do not have insurance?

If proton therapy treatment is recommended and you do not have insurance coverage, the oncology social workers at Ackerman Cancer Center can assist you in locating resources that may help supplement the cost of treatment. A manageable payment plan can also be established should you decide to pay for your care directly.

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