When it comes to a patient’s understanding of proton therapy, it is crucial to listen to concerns to truly gauge knowledge or gaps in comprehension. In other words, what do patients need to know to make an informed decision when they’ve just received the diagnosis “You have cancer”? And how do they go forward with prescribed protocols like proton therapy with confidence?

We recently collaborated with Texas Center for Proton Therapy and conducted an online social listening exercise to gather an understanding of what caregivers and patients know about proton therapy. What we learned was astonishing: Less than 85% know about this alternative to traditional radiation therapy.

A recent study found that patients, on average, are given only 11 seconds to be heard. When we truly listen, we discover that patient concerns and gaps in understanding of most therapies — like proton therapy — are never what we expected.

Proton Therapy Education Solutions Through Listening

By taking in what others had to say during our month-long window of listening, we discovered that patients want to learn about the journeys and outcomes of others who have chosen this treatment. But first they want to understand how proton therapy works, especially when they are presented with multiple medical options.

Proton therapy delivers targeted radiation to tumors, guided by some of the world’s most accurate imaging technology. The protons delivered to the tumor destroy cancerous cells, while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

This type of treatment also benefits pediatric and many recurring cancers, which many patients and caregivers don’t know about or haven’t even considered. We learned through listening that patients want to know how something works, especially when they’re fighting the biggest battle, the Big C.

Humanizing Proton Therapy

We discovered that patients want to listen, too. They want to hear from others who chose proton therapy and why they chose it — pain points, media influence, or other. They want the details, to feel satisfied and confident in their decisions, and they need to connect with others to humanize the experience for themselves.

We also discovered that patients are very aware of what they are going through. They know there are no guarantees when they choose any protocol to fight cancer, but they want to be armed with detailed information. Whenever possible, this information should be easily accessible and clear, and they should be able to relate what they learn to a real-world example.