What is Proton Therapy
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Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States, and remains a significant health problem worldwide. Surgery and radiation are the primary curative modalities to treat lung cancer. Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy that, for some lung cancer patients, allows for greater sparing of their organs from the effects of radiation exposure.

Proton Therapy Offers:

  • Less radiation to your heart, lung, and esophagus
  • Potentially fewer side effects in some patients from radiation treatment, including lower rates of pneumonitis and esophagitis (less inflammation of the lungs and esophagus) compared to regular radiation 
  • Similar efficacy at killing cancer cells as other forms of radiation

Advantages of Proton Therapy Over X-Ray Radiation 

Too much radiation to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor can increase the risk of side effects. This is a major concern when it comes to radiation treatment for lung cancer because the cancer may be close to your heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton radiation to better conform to your cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it.

A large clinical trial in lung cancer treatment recently showed that a patient’s survival after lung cancer treatment is closely related to the amount of radiation the patient’s heart received, and the amount of esophagus toxicity (swallowing difficulty) patients developed during radiation treatment (trial RTOG 0617). Proton therapy can decrease the radiation dose to the heart and the esophagus, as well as normal lung.

In the figure below, a proton therapy radiation plan is shown on the right, and a plan with regular radiation is shown on the left. With proton radiation, there is less radiation to the normal lung, heart, and rest of the body, compared with regular radiation. 

Video: Radiation Treatment for Lung Cancer

Hear our Radiation Oncologist Dr. Jing Zeng explain the difference between photons and protons and answers these questions: - What is the typical course of treatment for lung cancer? - When in the patient treatment plan would radiation therapy be used? - What is radiation treatment experience like? - What are the side effects of radiation treatment?

Types of Lung and Thoracic Cancers

Below is a list of lung and thoracic cancers that can benefit from proton therapy. Our radiation oncologists use other forms of radiation to treat cancers, so they will provide you with an expert recommendation for your consideration. 

  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Select small cell lung cancer 
  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Mediastinal tumors
    • Thymoma
    • Sarcoma
  • Select recurrent lung and metastatic cancer

Are You a Candidate for Proton Therapy?

You should consider proton therapy if you:

  • Have lung cancer that has not spread outside your chest, especially along with one of the following:
    • Have limited or poor pulmonary function
    • Have a heart condition
    • Had prior radiation therapy

Choosing the right treatment for your lung cancer is an important decision. While there are a lot of good options, make sure you look into proton therapy at SCCA Proton Therapy Center to help reduce your risk of side effects.

Please give us a call at 1-855-528-7248 if you are ready to make an appointment. 

Please be advised that we will need your medical records to determine if you are a candidate for proton therapy.


Additional Resources: 

Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Survivor Story

Speak with a Lung Cancer Patient Advocate

Lung Cancer; Ocular Cancers

“In order to be successful in caring for the patient, a partnership must be forged between the oncologist and the patient, with each contributing to the development of a treatment plan that speaks to all of the needs of the patient.”

Lung Cancer; Prostate Cancer

“Ultimately, the patient chooses the treatment path, but it is my duty to ensure that patients have all the information needed to feel confident in the decision.”

Lung Cancer

"I approach patients with thoughtful considerations of their unique story and goals. We then work together as a team to understand and navigate the complex, multidisciplinary world of cancer care."

Related Studies

Proton Beam Radiotherapy and Concurrent Chemotherapy for Unresectable Stage III Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Final Results of a Phase 2 Study Chang JY, Verma V, Li M, et. al. Read Study
An in-silico comparison of proton beam and IMRT for postoperative radiotherapy in completely resected stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer Berman AT, Teo BK, Dolney D, Swisher-McClure S, Shahnazi K, Both S, Rengan R. Read Study
Advantages of proton therapy in non-small cell lung cancers Fan C, Li Y, Liu Q. Read Study
Compensation method for respiratory motion in proton treatment planning for mobile liver cancer Jeong H, Lee SB, Yoo SH, Lim YK, Kim TH, Park S, Chai GY, Kang KM, Shin D. Read Study