Home Treatments Proton Beam Therapy

What is proton beam therapy?

Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of external radiotherapy that uses high-energy proton beams instead of photon x-ray beams or electrons. Carefully measured doses of protons are delivered to the precise area needing treatment, using the latest IBA ProteusONE technology. This ensures that the delivery of proton beam therapy is highly accurate and prevents the risk of radiation reaching surrounding healthy tissue.

Proton beam therapy is planned differently depending on your type of cancer. In addition, patients with the same cancers don't have identical treatment, as this is individual to you and your body. The aim of proton beam therapy may be to:

  • Kill cancer cells
  • Reduce the likelihood of the cancer coming back
  • Shrink a tumour to slow its growth and provide relief from symptoms

Your personalised treatment plan usually takes place over days or weeks, and you may hear these sessions called 'fractions'. This is because the full dose of your treatment is divided into separate smaller doses. 

Stress and anxiety are common for those who have been diagnosed with cancer, so it's important to us that you feel involved and supported throughout your treatment and beyond. Your treatment team of highly skilled professionals will deliver your treatment, they are there to help you, so if you have any questions or concerns, they are always on-hand to address them.

You may already have some information about proton beam therapy from the news or from someone you know who has had the treatment. It can be useful to gain an understanding from someone with first-hand experience, but it's important to remember that someone else's experience may not always apply to you, as everyone is different. 

Cancers we treat with proton beam therapy

Before treatment begins, an oncologist will discuss and explain the full aim of the proton beam therapy treatment plan and if further services will be required alongside it. Proton beam therapy can be used as a sole method for treating certain cancers or used in combination with other cancer services, such as chemotherapy, or to ensure that any remaining cancerous cells are destroyed following tumour removal surgery.

Areas of the body we currently treat using proton beam therapy at the Rutherford Cancer Centres:

*The suitability of treating certain body areas with proton beam therapy is dependant on the location and staging of the cancer.

How does proton beam therapy work?

The organs and tissues of your body are made up of tiny building blocks, which are called cells. Proton beam therapy damages cancer cells in a treated area, this stops their growth and over time, these cells die.

Proton beam therapy uses beams of protons to target cancerous tumours. Protons are small particles of an atom, and a 'particle accelerator' (also called a 'cyclotron') is used to speed up the protons to produce the beam. The latest form of proton beam therapy is called intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) with pencil beam scanning, an advanced technique that allows each dose to be precisely targeted.

The proton beam's ability to be targeted during treatment allows for harder to reach tumours to be treated, as well as tumours that are in sensitive locations such as near the spine, in the brain, or affecting vital organs. Although it utilises high-energy protons to damage and kill cancer cells, the proton beam can be specifically targeted to a treatment area and made to 'stop' before affecting surrounding healthy tissue.

At the Rutherford Cancer Centres, proton beam therapy is delivered using the latest technology. During a treatment session, we will ensure you are as comfortable as possible, and the technology is designed to move around you, to treat you from any angle required.

The beam enters the body

The beam is able to deposit less energy (than conventional radiotherapy) on the way to the tumour - ensuring it doesn't affect any tissue beyond it.

The beam targets the tumour area

The beam is precise and delivers high-energy radiation to only the tumour area, targeting it layer by layer.

The beam stops

The beam 'stops' where it's supposed to, sparing surrounding healthy tissue - unlike conventional radiotherapy.

The benefits of proton beam therapy

There can be many benefits of proton beam therapy, and these will vary from person to person. The benefits of proton beam therapy over conventional radiotherapy are:

  • Fewer side effects
  • More accurate targeting of the area to be treated
  • Treating hard to reach tumours that may be close to vital organs and tissue
  • Lower radiation exposure to healthy tissue beyond the treatment area
  • Greater planning flexibility with the potential for reducing the number of treatment sessions
  • Can be combined with other treatments and therapies

An overview of how proton beam therapy works

Proton beam therapy is highly accurate in targeting a treatment area. It can be used to treat hard-to-reach tumours, while lowering radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs.

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What a lovely, warm and relaxing place to be, when you're maybe not your best and don't feel like going through the things you need to. The staff are fab and help with everything, they make you feel human again! 🙂

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

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Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

July 2019

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Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

June 2019

As soon as we entered the property the receptionist was friendly, the area was immaculate. The facilities the same. I hope more people get to use this clinic and the care of all the staff.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

June 2019

What a really lovely place. 1st visit as an NHS patient. Very relaxing, great coffee! Smashing staff. Thank you for making my home town your home!

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

June 2019

Absolutely lovely, friendly warm welcome from everybody we saw, couldn't ask for anymore.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

July 2019

We're here for you

It’s important that you feel supported, not only during your treatment but also afterwards, to give your body the best possible chance to heal.

After treatments your recovery will be supported by regular follow-up checks with your consultant. These will vary depending on the area of your body that's been treated, and the amount of treatment you've received. Follow-up appointments are used to help keep track of your recovery, so if you have any concerns you will have the opportunity to discuss them with your consultant.

The diagnosis of cancer combined with possible side effects can affect how you feel. Your treatment team is here to support you, and we encourage you to talk to us. Sometimes just talking about your emotions can be of great help and if necessary, we can arrange for further advice and support.

 Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

General information for patients having proton beam therapy

If you would like to know more about proton beam therapy, including how it works, its benefits and possible side effects; please download our patient guide.

Download General info - proton therapy(pdf)

Frequently asked questions

Long-term side effects can be reduced when receiving proton beam therapy. Short-term side effects have also been known to be reduced, depending on the area of the body being treated. During and following treatment, patients may experience sensitivity and reddening of the skin in the area that is being treated, in addition to slight hair loss in the treatment area.

During treatment sessions, any side effects will be closely monitored by our treatment team, who will also provide any advice or guidance during appointments.

The treatment length for proton beam therapy is entirely dependent on the type of cancer, the location, size and shape of the tumour to be treated. One patient may only require a handful of sessions, while another patient may need daily visits over several weeks to complete the full course of treatment. 

Before treatment begins, our consultants will be able to explain the intended length of treatment and further details of the personalised treatment plan.

The individual appointments for proton beam therapy (referred to as 'fractions'), can take between 15 to 45 minutes. However, the proton beam therapy itself only takes a few minutes. Most of the time is spent ensuring you are made comfortable, to prevent any movement while the treatment takes place.

Most patients who have received proton beam therapy have reported no pain or discomfort. There may be some sensitivity in the area being treated, but this usually occurs after the appointment has concluded. 

People aren't radioactive or give off radiation following proton beam therapy treatment. It is perfectly safe for patients to be with other people, including children, throughout a course of treatment.

We currently offer proton beam therapy at our South Wales centre in Newport, our North East centre in Northumberland. Proton beam therapy will also available at the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Thames Valley, in Reading, from mid-August 2019.

International patients can also travel to the UK to be treated at the Rutherford, where we offer a full concierge service, to make it as seamless as possible for any patients travelling to us. More information on this can be found on our international patients page.

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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