Home News & Events News BLOG: What can proton beam therapy be used to treat?

The Rutherford Cancer Centres have been offering proton beam therapy as a treatment since 2018, firstly at our South Wales centre before also becoming available at our North EastNorth West and Thames Valley centres. 

Proton beam therapy, an advanced form of external radiotherapy, can be used to treat cancers in a variety of areas of the body and can be combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, to provide the best chance of removing the tumour in its entirety.

Through this, the Rutherford Cancer Centres has helped to treat numerous cancer patients, and with Cancer Survivors Day on 6 June (falling on the first Sunday in June every year), we thought it would be beneficial to highlight what proton beam therapy can treat.



So what type of cancers can proton beam therapy treat?


Below, you will find the various types of cancers that can be treated using proton beam therapy, either as a sole course of treatment or as part of combination therapy. You can also find all these by referring to our interactive body map.


Bowel cancer also referred to as colorectal cancer, is a blanket term that covers several different types of cancer in the region of the body. Small bowel, colon, rectal and anal cancers all fall under the umbrella of bowel cancer, and if cancer cells are left undetected, they are likely to spread to the liver and lungs. 


Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, affecting one in every eight women at some point in their lives. Despite the popular misconception, breast cancer can also affect men. Although family history can play a role in determining the likelihood of a patient developing breast cancer, other factors include smoking and obesity.


Proton beam therapy can be used to treat the two types of tumours that are found in the brain – which are non-cancerous benign tumours and cancerous malignant tumours. 

Head and Neck

Head and neck cancer is a blanket term that encompasses any cancerous tumour affecting areas such as the forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, sinuses, glands and/or lymph nodes in this area of the body. The three main types of head and neck cancer, all of which can be treated with proton beam therapy, are oral cancer, nasal and paranasal sinus cancer and throat cancer.


Liver cancer is a type of cancer whereby the chances of it occurring increase with age. Secondary liver cancer, when cancer cells have spread from other areas of the body, is the most common form of liver cancer via the bloodstream. Primary liver cancer, where cancer begins within the liver itself, is not as common.


There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer – the latter of which accounts for 87% of all diagnosed lung cancers.


There are various types of lymphoma cancer, which affects the lymphatic system covering the entirety of the body. Cancerous cells can easily spread through the lymphatic system and to other organs via the bloodstream. The main types of cancers are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma which, while they will need to be treated differently due to how the cells behave, proton beam therapy can be utilised as a part of a treatment plan.


Oesophageal cancer is when a tumour occurs in any part of the oesophagus. A tumour will commonly develop within the inner layer of muscle and tissue, spreading to the outer layers. The three main types of cancer in this region of the body are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell and gastro-oesophageal junction.


Pancreatic cancer mostly affects people aged 75 and over, with around 10,000 diagnoses in the UK each year. The three main types of pancreatic cancer are exocrine, endocrine and other rare forms. Factors that can bring on pancreatic cancer include lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol and a poor diet consisting of a high amount of processed meat. Family history and medical conditions can also be a contributing factor to the occurrence of pancreatic cancer.


Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that exclusively affects men, with one in eight men getting prostate cancer in their lifetime. The prostate gland sits underneath the bladder and proton beam therapy can be used to treat cancerous cells in the region.


Sarcomas are cancers that can occur in any part of the body, it's a rare type of cancer mostly found in the legs, arms and trunk of the body. The four main types of sarcoma cancers are soft tissue sarcoma, bone sarcoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) and gynaecological sarcoma.

Skull Base

Tumours that are skull base differ from other cancers in the head and neck area. These tumours have a specific type of cell structure and, thus, the precision of proton beam therapy makes this a suitable treatment for treating tumours in the three main regions of the skull base where they occur.


Spinal cancer, also referred to as spinal cord compression, is very rare, affecting between 2% - 4% of cancer patients. Cancerous tumours that develop on the spinal cord, can press on nerves running down the spine and, if left untreated, can quickly spread to the brain, as well as nearby tissue.


Gynaecological cancers are types of cancers that affect the female reproductive system, specifically the vulva, cervix, womb, vagina and ovaries. Four of the five types of gynaecological cancer can be treated used proton beam therapy, but their symptoms can vary significantly – for this reason, it is best to refer to our gynaecological cancers page where you can find more information. Ovarian cancer may need different types of treatment and may not be treatable with proton beam therapy.

Get in touch with the Rutherford Cancer Centres

So now that you know what proton beam therapy can be used to treat, please get in contact with a member of our team today if you have any questions and/or would like to find out more about proton beam therapy. An early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of survival and patient outcomes, so please do not sit on any concerns that you have. We're here - right where you need us.

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

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