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Proton Therapy

Conditions Treated with Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is considered the most technologically advanced radiation delivery method for cancerous tumors. With this powerful, precise technology, tumors are more accurately targeted so healthy tissues and organs get less unnecessary radiation.

Proton therapy is commonly used to treat tumors in sensitive areas where traditional X-ray or photon radiation may not be the best option. Depending on your particular diagnosis, proton therapy may be a treatment option for cancers of the brain and central nervous system, breast, esophagus, head and neck, liver, lung, lymphatic system, eyes, pancreas, prostate, bone and others. It is particularly beneficial for many pediatric cancers.

Proton therapy for adult cancers

Proton therapy for brain, orbit and head and neck cancers

For cancers of the brain, orbit and head and neck, proton therapy provides effective treatment while minimizing the radiation dose to vital structures. For brain cancer, proton therapy delivers high doses of radiation while protecting normal brain structures and minimizing impact on physical and mental function. For cancers of the head and neck, proton therapy minimizes the radiation dose to vital structures such as the brain, eyes, mouth and throat, which is important in reducing pain when swallowing so that patients can eat. For orbital tumors, proton therapy may significantly lower radiation dose to the ocular structures and optic nerve, improving vision preservation and limiting the impact on healthy tissues, such as the pituitary gland and brain, decreasing the risk of hormone deficiencies and neurocognitive impairment.

Proton therapy for gastrointestinal cancers

For gastrointestinal cancers, proton therapy provides effective treatment while lessening harm to healthy tissues and vital organs such as the liver, small and large bowel, kidneys and stomach. For esophageal cancer, proton therapy reduces radiation exposure to the heart, lung and liver. For liver cancer, proton therapy effectively shrinks or kills cancer cells in the liver while reducing radiation exposure to the healthy liver. Gastrointestinal cancers we treat with proton therapy include:

  • Colon
  • Esophageal 
  • Metastatic liver cancer, which results from the spread of cancer from other areas of the body
  • Pancreas 
  • Primary liver cancer, which originates in the liver
  • Rectum and anal canal
  • Recurrent gastrointestinal cancers that have been previously treated with radiation

Proton therapy for lung and thoracic cancers 

For lung cancer, proton therapy precisely targets tumors and delivers radiation therapy with optimal accuracy, while sparing critical nearby structures, such as the esophagus, lung, heart and spinal cord.

Lung and thoracic cancers we treat with proton therapy include: 

  • Nonsmall cell lung cancer
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Thymoma
  • Mesothelioma

Breast cancer

For breast cancer, proton therapy may be especially beneficial as it minimizes damage to nearby tissue and vital organs such as the heart and lungs.

Proton therapy for prostate cancer 

Proton therapy precisely targets prostate tumors and reduces unnecessary radiation dose to the surrounding healthy tissue compared to traditional X-ray or photon radiation.

Proton therapy for sarcoma 

Proton therapy can be used to treat many kinds of sarcoma, including soft tissue and bone sarcoma in children that is discovered in hard-to-reach spots, such as at the base of the skull and spine.

Sarcomas we treat with proton therapy include:

  • Alveolar soft part sarcoma 
  • Angiosarcoma 
  • Chondrosarcoma/chondrogenic sarcoma 
  • Chordoma
  • Clear cell sarcoma 
  • Desmoid tumors/aggressive fibromatosis 
  • Ewing sarcoma 
  • Giant cell tumors 
  • Leiomyosarcomas 
  • Liposarcomas 
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma 
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors 
  • Osteosarcoma/osteogenic sarcoma 
  • Rhabdomyosarcomas 
  • Synovial cell sarcoma


Proton therapy may be used in combination with chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Proton therapy can reduce the body dose of radiation 40%-50% compared with traditional X-ray or photon radiation and significantly lower late effects, such as secondary malignancy and cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes.

  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma


Reirradiation may be the best treatment approach to control a recurrent tumor and offer select patients with tumor recurrence or new primary tumors a chance of cure. Proton therapy offers significant advantages for reirradiation. By decreasing the dose to adjacent normal tissues, proton therapy more safely delivers a higher dose of radiation compared to traditional X-rays or photon radiation, and provides the patient a better chance for cancer control while reducing the risk for severe side effects.

Proton therapy for pediatric cancers

Proton therapy is particularly beneficial for treating children and adolescents with cancerous and noncancerous tumors. Children are at a significantly higher risk of late effects from cancer treatments compared to adults. Two-thirds of children who survive a cancer diagnosis face at least one chronic health condition. One-fourth of pediatric cancer survivors face a severe or life-threatening side effect from treatment that occurs later in life. These include heart damage, lung damage, infertility, cognitive impairment, growth deficits, hearing loss, vision loss, secondary cancers and more.

Thanks to treatment advances, including radiation, pediatric cancer survival rates have dramatically increased to nearly 85% today from 10% only decades ago. One of these advancements, proton therapy, reduces a child’s risk of experiencing harmful long-term side effects. Proton therapy limits and reduces radiation doses to healthy tissues and organs while delivering curative doses to the cancer. 

We treat a number of childhood cancers with proton therapy. In certain situations, the cancer center will coordinate with Children’s Mercy specialists to develop a care plan suited to the child’s individual treatment requirements. Childhood cancers we treat with proton therapy include:

  • Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor
  • Chordoma chondrosarcoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Desmoid tumor
  • Ependymoma 
  • Ewing’s sarcoma 
  • Glioma 
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Intracranial germ cell tumors
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Nasopharyngeal tumors
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Parotid tumors
  • Pineoblastoma
  • Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumor
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
Image of child patient Volkov Roman

Saved by proton therapy

At just 4 years old, Roman Volkov faced an unimaginable diagnosis of stage IV neuroblastoma of the abdomen. Proton therapy saved his life.
Roman's story

Start your path today.

Your journey to health starts here. Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

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