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 proton beam enters the body

The beam is able to enter the body with less energy and deposit a precise beam of radiation (than conventional radiotherapy) to the tumour - ensuring less damage to surrounding heathy tissue.

The beam targets the tumour area

The proton beam precisely delivers its highest radiation of energy to only the tumour area, targeting it layer by layer.

The beam stops

The beam then 'stops' where it's supposed to, sparing surrounding healthy tissue - unlike conventional radiotherapy. The below image represents the radiation path when using 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.

Watch the video

Proton beam therapy at the Rutherford

Danica talks about her day-to-day as a Senior Therapy Radiographer at the Rutherford

Watch the video

Meet Ed

Ed talks about his day-to-day as a Senior Physicist at the Rutherford

Watch the video

Proton beam therapy in action - patient video

Video created & donated by Richard Lee-Brown

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Excellent staff, service. King and approachable at all times. Very supportive.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

September 2019

The staff at Rutherford have been excellent every time I visited - no complaints at all during my treatment.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

Very helpful and friendly, excellent!

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

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

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

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

July 2019

Friendly staff, nice location/setting.

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.

If you have cancer, it's understandable you might be worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance from Macmillan.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)
www.macmillan.org.uk

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)

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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