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Cancers that can be treated with proton therapy

Brain and Spinal Cord Cancer Treatment with Proton Therapy

This diversity in tumor type brings with it a wide range of suitable brain and spine tumor treatments that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination thereof, depending on the specific classification and aggressiveness of the tumor.
Radiation therapy is used to destroy cancer cells and prevent their regrowth. When treating brain or spinal cord tumors, it is especially important to treat the tumor and kill cancer cells while preserving the surrounding healthy tissue. Proton therapy can be an excellent tool that doctors use to achieve this balance.

Signs / Symptoms

Brain cancer symptoms can vary based on the location or size of a tumor. If one or more of these symptoms persists, see your doctor. In general, symptoms include:


  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting

  • New headache pattern

  • Headaches that become more frequent/severe

  • Vision problems, including double vision, peripheral vision loss, or blurred vision

  • Loss of feeling or movement in a limb over time

  • difficulties with speech

  • personality changes

  • Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures

  • hearing problems

  • speech problems


Doctors recommend various tests and procedures for diagnosing brain cancer. Approximately 23,800 adults and 4,830 children are diagnosed with cancerous tumors of the brain and spinal cord each year, with brain tumors making up the majority of this number. They may recommend a neurological exam, which usually includes checking vision, hearing, reflexes, coordination, and balance.

Having difficulty in one or more of these areas may be a sign of a brain tumor.

A doctor uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized computerized imaging, commonly used in brain tumor diagnosis.

may recommend tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET). A biopsy may also be completed for diagnosis.


Exposing healthy brain tissue to too much radiation can cause significant complications, such as neurological dysfunction and loss of cognitive abilities. Because brain tumors are surrounded by important structures that can cause long-term side effects if damaged, proton therapy can be a great option for many patients.

Proton therapy increases the sensitivity of the therapy. Pen beam scanning capabilities and image-based technology allow high-dose protons to be delivered to the tumor and cause less damage to surrounding tissues, such as the optic nerve. Proton therapy is a safe and non-invasive treatment. Patients will experience fewer side effects and will typically be able to resume their normal activities before and after treatment.

With proton therapy, most of the healthy tissue and critical organs surrounding the tumor are spared from receiving additional radiation. A portion of normal brain tissue receives 50% less radiation than conventional radiation / X-rays / IMRT. In the graph below, the gray/white areas indicate no radiation exposure, while the colored areas indicate radiation exposure.


Brain tumors best suited for proton therapy:

  • Gilomas (astrocytomas)

  • Oligodendrogliomas

  • Ependymomas

  • Medulloblastomas

  • Pineoblastomas

  • Supratenorial PNET


Clinical Benefits of Proton Therapy in Brain and Spinal Cord Cancer Treatment
  •  5 years in disease control for aggressive tumors (chordomas) at the base of the skull31% increase.

  •  Probability of secondary brain tumor after treatment50% less.

  •  Average dose to the hippocampus (memory function) in the treatment of meningioma55% reduction 

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