Home / blog / What is PROTON THERAPY?


Cancer is still considered as a dreadful disease. Today there are a number of right treatments if diagnosed and treated at the right time. Treatments like Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy, Targeted Therapy and Proton Therapy are some of them.


The advanced form of Radiation Therapy to kill the cancer cells is PROTON THERAPY. 

In radiation therapy x-rays are used, whereas, in Proton Therapy, charged particles called Protons are used. This treatment is also known as PROTON BEAM THERAPY. This treatment helps the doctor to get to the exact location of the tumour in the body. The doctor decides if Proton Therapy is needed.

Types of Cancers That Can Be Treated  With Proton Therapy

  1. Head and Neck Cancer
  2. Pediatric Cancer
  3. Spine Tumors
  4. Breast Cancer
  5. Sarcoma
  6. Brain Tumors
  7. Prostate Cancer
  8. Cancers around the eye
  9. Lung and thoracic cancers
  10. Liver cancer.

Functioning Of Proton Therapy

With the help of a device, a high-energy beam of protons is sent through the skin to the affected tumour. A CT or MRI scan is taken to locate the exact place of the tumour.

Then the Radiation Oncologist, using computer programs send the exact dose of treatment to the location of the tumour.

The Proton Therapy is given to the patient in a special room, where the patient is made to lie down on a table, and see that he does not move.

The Proton Therapy lasts for 30 minutes depending on the size, location and the number of tumours.

Benefits of Proton Therapy:

  • Proton Therapy kills the cancer cells as it goes up to the exact location of the tumour.
  • By the time the proton therapy reaches the location all energy is released, i.e., it releases more of its energy within the tumour itself so, side effects are less.
  • The normal tissues are also not damaged because of this treatment, as the proton stops thereafter releasing the energy to the affected tumour.
  • In proton therapy treatment, a high dose is used to the tumour, so the chance to destroy it is more.
  • PENCIL BEAM SCANNING TECHNOLOGY is an advanced form of Proton Therapy, this does not allow the healthy tissues to be exposed to the treatment, and only the affected area is treated in the highest possible way.
  • Proton Therapy does not allow healthy tissues to get damaged, like in sensitive areas as the brain, eyes, spinal cord, heart, major blood vessels and nerves.

Who are The Correct Patients to Receive Proton Therapy?

Not all cancer patients are given Proton Therapy.

A small percentage of patients receive this treatment.

Patients whose tumours have turned solid and are located close to the sensitive organs, like breast and lung cancers, are treated with Proton Therapy.

Procedure To Administer Proton Therapy

  • It is an outpatient treatment.
  • Several sessions are taken for this treatment, sometimes longer than the other treatments.
  • This treatment is available only in a few hospitals.
  • Careful planning is done by the doctors as the exact location has to be targeted.
  • MRI is recommended to locate the tumour and the surrounding areas before each session.
  • Temporary marks are made on the affected area of the body.
  • From several angles, the tumour is treated by moving the beam around the patient.
  • The patient and the instruments are adjusted properly so that the proton beam reaches the exact spot of the tumour.
  •  It also made sore that the patient does not move while the treatment is on.
  • Once the position of the patient and the instruments are placed correctly, the doctor leaves the room to operate the proton beam machine.
  • The doctor then sees and hears with the help of a video camera.
  • Proton Therapy treatment is safe but expensive.

Side Effects of Proton Therapy:

  1. THE side effects are the same as other radiation treatments.
  2. The exposure to the radiation is less so side effects are also less.
  3. After the treatment tiredness or energy is low. 
  4. Near the treated area, a sore is formed, and the skin becomes red.
  5. In the treated area, there is a loss of hair.
  6. Depending on the treated area headaches and the patient might experience eating and digestion problems.

After The Proton Therapy:

  • After the treatment, the patient can do his daily routine work.
  • Side effects are a few, and only after many rounds of treatment, one might experience tiredness.
  • Doctors can ask for periodic imaging tests during and after proton therapy, to check whether cancer is responding to the treatments.
  • How often the scans are taken depends on the location of the tumour.
  • Proton therapy is not painful, but while the treatment is going on as the patient needs to be in one position, that can cause some discomfort.

Can Children Receive Proton Therapy?

  • As proton therapy is targeted therapy, children can receive it.
  • Exposure to radiation is less and does not cause much damage to the surrounding healthy tissues so children can take this treatment.
  • Most of the doctors treating the children are experienced, children are cared for well and can understand the needs of the children with cancer.

Awareness Of Proton Therapy Treatment:

Though Proton therapy is not new side effects are also less cost is the major constrain. If knowledge is shared about its accuracy and improvement is quicker, many may opt for this treatment. People should be informed that with proton therapy, a patient can actually be re-treated with a full dose and cure them where it was not possible earlier. Patients before experienced vomiting, dehydration and felt miserable, but after proton therapy treatment, they tolerated the treatment better, and their quality of life improved.

Doctors can also encourage patients to go proton therapy by sharing their experiences, how many different cancers that are being treated with proton therapy; the results are good from the doctor’s point of view.  If we have a dedicated team of doctors, and they work in partnership with patients, the future of being treated with proton therapy will bring hope for the future. Every cancer researcher, physician and their team can pull out the patient from the trauma he is undergoing.