University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patient Story: Proton Therapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


Proton Therapy Helped Me Share Moments with My Grandchildren
Kathy Brandt was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in 2011 at her local hospital. After much research, and a recommendation from her brother-in-law, who is a physician, Kathy chose Penn Medicine for her lung cancer treatment, which included proton therapy. Today, Kathy is cancer free. 

You hear the word “cancer” and it's truly terrifying.

It was basically just a checkup with my pulmonologist because I have emphysema. He sent me for a chest X-ray and that is when they found the tumor in my lung. It was a terrifying time and thankfully I had strong family surrounding me - strong family helping me make decisions about what kind of treatment I should have. After that initial diagnosis, when you feel like you have been hit with a ton of bricks, then the decision needs to be made where you are going to seek treatment. My brother-in-law, who is a physician, along with my pulmonologist suggested I go to Penn Medicine for treatment.

Penn Medicine was a wonderful choice for us. They used a team approach.  I saw an oncologist, I saw a surgeon, and the radiologist is all located at Penn Medicine.  It was very comforting to know that all these people are just working to take care of you and to make you better.

I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer at the end of June.  My surgery was the beginning of August and chemo started in September. It was finished in November.  I started proton therapy in December, which lasted for 4 weeks.

Deciding to Have Proton Therapy at Penn
I decided to go with the proton radiation because of the cancer’s proximity to my heart and spine. I chose proton therapy because I knew it would be more precise and would have less side effects and that was very important to me.

The Proton Therapy Experience
Every day for 5 weeks, I would leave work, come home, and my husband would take me to Penn for proton therapy. After the treatment, we’d go home and I’d spend time with my grandchildren and their parents, who were living with us at the time. My granddaughter was about 3 months old at the time. And I would take her, feed her, and just spend time with the people that meant the most to me.

I really felt wonderful. I continued to work the whole time I had proton therapy – I never missed a day of work, actually. I was a bit more tired than usual, but that was really the only side effect I felt.

When I completed proton therapy, I rang the bell.  Everybody in the waiting room clapped, and we went home and I think I had a very big glass of wine after treatment was finished.

After Proton Therapy
Today, I don’t sweat the small stuff.

I would tell anyone to feel very comfortable going to Penn Medicine, and I would tell anyone to also feel very comfortable in choosing proton therapy simply because of the fewer side effects and its extreme precision.  I would recommend Penn Medicine wholeheartedly.  I cannot say enough good things about my experience.

Learn More About Proton Therapy at Penn Medicine
Proton therapy is a non-invasive, incredibly precise cancer treatment that uses a beam of protons moving at very high speeds to destroy the DNA of cancer cells killing them and preventing them from multiplying.

Unlike conventional radiation that can affect surrounding healthy tissue as it enters the body and targets the tumor, proton therapy’s precise, high dose of radiation is extremely targeted. This targeted precision causes less damage to healthy, surrounding tissue.

Watch the full video of Kathy's experience.

Learn more about proton therapy, or schedule a consultation with a radiation oncologist at Penn Medicine. 

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