Your Breast Health Starts with You: What if I Need Radiation or Proton Therapy?

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Your Breast Health Starts with You: What if I Need Radiation or Proton Therapy?

The size of the breast tumor, the location, and the status of the lymph nodes also determines where radiation or proton therapy might play a beneficial role, and if it is needed for the continuity of care for the patient. This decision is made with the patient’s cancer care team of doctors who talk and come up with the best course of action to target the disease.

“For those patients that we agree need to have surgery first, sometimes prior to that surgery when we have more workup and testing, more information is found,” said Hesham Gayar, MD, radiation oncologist and Associate Medical Director at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint and Medical Director of the McLaren Proton Therapy Center. “When those results come out, we have another discussion about the plan. We continue to discuss and evaluate next steps after each treatment is complete.

When it comes to breast cancer, treating with radiation means treating the breast and the chest wall. For some patients where the cancer is in the right breast, conventional radiation treatment may be the best option, but for those whose cancer is in the left breast, they may better benefit with proton therapy. The difference between the two is the ability to stop the radiation treatment at the target tumor and avoid treatment to the heart.

“It is a well-known risk to have long term heart complications, like angina or heart disease, happening to patients many years after radiation treatments,” explained Dr. Gayar. “Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to accept some doses of radiation to the heart when we’re treating the left breast. Those conditions and that nightmare is over with having proton therapy. We now can spare the heart completely, even in the most difficult cases, and avoid that delayed risk of heart problems due to radiation treatment.”

Patient care teams not only include radiation, medical and surgical oncologists, they also include the radiologist and pathologist, plus an oncology nurse navigator to help the patient organize and understand each appointment and their overall treatment plan. This navigator also provides resources and support group information to each patient as they go through treatment and recover.

“It takes a team of doctors and professionals to orchestrate a therapy plan for cancer patients and coordinate it in steps to have the best possible outcome with the best quality of care, cosmetic results, the satisfaction of the patients and protection of the patients and their family,” added Dr. Gayar. “As well as a support program working to help the patient through the process. It’s like a symphony, orchestrated to care for the patient properly.”

As part of the Karmanos mission, we are always seeking opportunities to provide our patients access to the most cutting-edge cancer treatments. Karmanos is a nationally recognized leader in both radiation and medical oncology clinical trials. Not only has this led to innovation of multiple new therapies, but it has also created a network that brings this research to all its cancer centers throughout Michigan. This has made the Karmanos Cancer Network the largest cancer research network in Michigan.

For more information about clinical trials and research at Karmanos, visit

Learn more about proton therapy at, or call (855) MY-PROTON (855-697-7686) to speak with the proton patient navigator.


Visit to learn about more cancer treatments available at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint.