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Pelvic Cancers & Tumors Treatment Overview

As the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Georgia, Winship is at the forefront in the treatment of pelvic cancers, conducting innovative research and clinical trials that are transforming 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, medical oncology, gastroenterology, gynecology, gynecologic oncology, radiology, pathology, supportive oncology, dieticians, social workers, physical therapy, and cancer rehabilitation. Your radiation oncologist will work closely with these other specialists to customize your treatment plan and coordinate your care. We can also partner and coordinate with a patient’s existing care team, whether they are across town or around the world.

Proton Therapy for Pelvic Cancer

Cancer of the pelvis 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 supportive care using the most advanced treatments available. Proton therapy may be a more precise radiation option for treatment of your cancer to help protect the function of important nearby organs like the bowels, bladder, and genitals, as well as reducing the risk of developing a future cancer. Our cancer specialists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan which aims for fewer side effects and improved quality of life.

What We Treat


In treatment of pelvic 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 frequent urination or stinging or burning with urination during treatment, or of chronic urinary problems after treatment.
  • Reduced risk of nausea and diarrhea during treatment.
  • Reduced risk of diarrhea and rectal soreness (proctitis) during treatment and of chronic rectal problems after treatments such as rectal bleeding or ulceration.
  • Reduced risk of skin and mucosal irritation of sensitive tissues during radiation and of chronic problems after treatments such as vaginal dryness or narrowing (stenosis).
  • Reduced radiation to the bone marrow and circulating lymphocytes, which may help support the function of the immune system in taking on cancer.
  • Reduced risk of low blood counts (anemia, neutropenia) which may support the body’s tolerance of chemotherapy.
  • Other normal tissues. Reducing or avoiding radiation to normal tissues reduces the 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

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What to Expect With Proton Therapy

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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 one to three weeks or six weeks of therapy. 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 a comprehensive plan of care.

Like other types of radiation, proton therapy treatments are invisible and painless. Most pelvic tumor treatments average 30 minutes each day in the treatment room.

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 Pelvic Cancer

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

Patient Stories