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Abdominal Cancer & Tumor Treatment Overview

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Georgia, Winship is at the forefront in the treatment of liver, pancreatic, and other abdominal cancers. Our staff conduct innovative research and clinical trials that transform how these cancers are identified, treated, and survived.

The radiation oncologists at Emory Proton Therapy Center work with the multidisciplinary cancer teams at Winship, which includes experts in surgical oncology, gastroenterology, hepatology, transplant, medical oncology, radiology, interventional radiology, pathology, supportive oncology, dieticians, social workers, physical therapy, and cancer rehabilitation. Your radiation oncologist will work closely with these and other specialists to customize your treatment plan and coordinate your every step. We can also partner and coordinate with a patient’s existing treatment team, whether they are across town or around the world.

Proton Therapy for Abdominal Tumors and Cancers

A cancer in the liver or abdomen can be one of the biggest challenges you and your family will ever face. Our team is dedicated to helping you meet that challenge through compassionate care, and using the most advanced treatments available. Proton therapy is a more precise radiation option for treatment of your cancer that also helps to protect the function of important nearby organs like the stomach, bowels, kidneys, and normal liver tissue. Our cancer specialists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that aims for fewer side effects and improved quality of life.

What We Treat

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Liver cell cancer
  • Liver metastases
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Adrenal metastases
  • Abdominal lymph node metastases
  • Re-irradiation

Benefits of Proton Therapy

In treatment of abdominal and gastrointestinal tumors, proton therapy can reduce or avoid radiation to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. 

Depending on the tumor location and type, proton therapy may achieve the following benefits:

  • Reduced risk of inflammation of the heart (pericarditis) and future heart problems like hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), stiffening of the heart muscle (fibrosis, cardiomyopathy), and heart attacks.
  • Reduced risk of new or worsening problems with liver function (radiation- induced liver dysfunction). This is relevant for patients with large liver tumors and/or small remaining size of normal liver, for those with poor liver function (liver cirrhosis), or who have had prior radiation treatments including prior liver radioembolization (Y90).
  • Reduced risk of nausea and diarrhea.
  • Reduced risk of new or worsening kidney function.
  • Reduced radiation to the bone marrow, spleen, and circulating lymphocytes may help support the function of the immune system in taking on fighting cancer.
  • Reduced risk of low blood counts (anemia, neutropenia) which may support the body’s tolerance of chemotherapy.
  • Reduced risk of developing a future second tumor or cancer, which is most relevant in younger patients, those with a good prognosis and a long life expectancy, and those patients who may have genetic conditions putting them at higher risk for developing other cancers.

Schedule a Consultation

Proton Therapy Research Studies

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The first step in your care is a consultation. During consultation, we review your medical history, perform a physical exam, decide if any additional tests are needed, discuss all radiation options that may be appropriate for your treatment plan, make recommendations, and answer questions.

To plan your treatment, you will undergo a “simulation” or planning session. During this visit our radiation therapists will help position you the way you will be treated each day. A CT scan will be done to create a picture of you in the treatment position to design your radiation plan. Some patients also undergo an MRI during this visit to help identify the target for treatment. It normally takes 10 days for the team to design the proton treatment plan and perform the quality assurance checks before treatment begins.

Depending on the type of tumor and stage, proton therapy may be delivered over 1-3 weeks or 6 weeks.  Typically, radiation is given once daily during the weekdays, Monday through Friday. For those receiving five treatments or fewer, proton therapy may be delivered every other day. While some situations are treated with radiation alone, proton therapy is often integrated with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or other cancer treatments as part of an all-encompassing plan

Like other types of radiation, proton therapy treatments are invisible and painless. Most abdominal treatments average 30 minutes each day in the treatment room. Some tumors in the abdomen move significantly while breathing. During your radiation planning process, your team will identify the most appropriate methods to manage tumor motion. 

Patients are seen by the radiation oncology physician team weekly during treatment to monitor progress, answer questions, address concerns, and manage any side effects from treatment. Your radiation oncologist will discuss a plan to assess response to treatment and for long-term follow-up after therapy.

Studies on Proton Therapy in Abdominal Cancers

Our team has identified these studies as examples of the clinical benefits of proton therapy in abdominal cancers.

Patient Stories