Proton Therapy for Brain Tumors

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Proton radiation therapy is an advanced treatment that sends radiation to the exact size, shape and depth of your brain tumor. It allows your physician to treat your tumor while helping to protect the rest of your brain, your eyes and your spinal tissue.

Proton Therapy for Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors with Dr. Lia Halasz

"Ask as many questions as you can — get explanations for why the physicians recommend certain treatments."

— Maddy, brain cancer patient

Tough on Your Tumor. Easier on Your Body.

Brain tumors can create serious health concerns, whether they are cancer or not. Treatment for tumors can also have long-term effects. Usually, treatment means surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. When it comes to radiation, proton therapy is a safer option that spares healthy tissue.

With standard X-ray radiation therapy, the healthy tissue around your tumor also gets a dose of radiation. This can lead to side effects and secondary cancers (cancers that are caused by treatment) later on. With proton radiation therapy, treatment is sent to your tumor very accurately. The goal is for less radiation to touch the healthy tissue nearby.

brain scan
These pictures show treatment for a brain tumor. The colored areas get radiation. The black, gray and white areas do not. With proton therapy (left), less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation. With standard X-ray radiation therapy (right), more healthy tissue is exposed.

Proton therapy uses a unique feature of protons: They give off the most radiation right before they come to a stop. Then the radiation falls to zero. That’s how we target treatment right to your tumor and no further.

More precision means less damage to healthy cells in your brain, eyes, sinuses and spinal cord. This can mean a faster recovery and fewer short- and long-term side effects, including better overall brain function.

Bragg Peak Graph
With X-ray radiation therapy (dark blue line), the radiation dose peaks soon after entering the body. Then it gradually decreases, often long before reaching the tumor. Healthy tissue around the tumor receives much of the dose instead. With proton therapy (medium blue and purple lines), treatment conforms more closely to the tumor. This means less radiation is deposited in the healthy tissue in front of the tumor compared to X-ray therapy. Almost none is deposited in the healthy tissue beyond the tumor.

Proton Therapy Facts

  • Proton therapy may help preserve brain function and reduce the risk of secondary tumors in the future.
  • Proton therapy can work very well to treat children, who are more sensitive to the effects of radiation.
  • Treatments are safe, noninvasive (no cuts in the skin are needed) and painless for most patients, helping you recover faster and keep living your life.
  • Pencil-beam scanning (PBS) is a proton technology that allows for more accuracy. PBS “paints” your tumor with a lot of very thin, very exact beams of protons. Because it’s even more precise, physicians may be able to use a higher, more effective dose. 
  • Proton therapy may be an option for you even if you’ve already had radiation for cancer. In fact, it may be your only option for getting more radiation treatment.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved proton therapy for clinical use in 1988. More than 200,000 people worldwide have had this form of treatment.

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Our proton therapy team is here not only to treat your disease, but to listen to you and take care of you and your family. They are experts in proton therapy who focus on giving you personalized treatment and who understand your questions, needs and concerns.