4 Things You May Not Know About Proton Therapy for Cancer Treatment.
Share this
Dr Keith Unger consults with a female patient in the Proton Therapy center.

Proton therapy is a modern cancer treatment using advanced technology to more safely and effectively destroy tumors benign and malignant (cancerous) tumors. Also called proton beam therapy, this cancer treatment involves delivering radiation directly to the tumor site with less impact on nearby healthy tissues. As a result, proton therapy offers numerous benefits over conventional radiation therapy.

Proton therapy is one of the most advanced forms of #RadiationTherapy used to treat all types of #cancer. On the MedStar Health blog, Dr. Keith Unger shares what you should know about it: https://bit.ly/3JwCgQL.
Click to Tweet


1. Proton therapy is one of the most advanced forms of radiation therapy available today.

While traditional radiation therapy has significantly improved over the years, it relies on X-ray beams that affect everything in its path to the tumor site, including structures behind the tumor. This can lead to immediate and long-term side effects due to organ or tissue damage. In contrast, proton therapy uses pencil beam scanning (PBS) to conform to the precise shape and depth of the targeted tumor site. This allows a single layer of a tumor to be treated at a time, painting the tumor with radiation spot-by-spot and slice-by-slice until the entire area has been treated, while minimizing radiation exposure to nearby areas.


Illustration of the effectiveness of proton therapy vs conventional radiation therapy on brain tumor.

At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, we were the first in the world to offer patients proton therapy with HYPERSCANTM, the most advanced and precise form of proton therapy  available. In addition, HYPERSCANTM is the fastest form of PBS, reducing the duration of each treatment visit and improving both clinical accuracy and patient comfort during the outpatient therapy session. 


2. Proton therapy can treat a wide range of cancers found anywhere in the body.

Proton therapy may be used to treat cancer nearly anywhere in the body, such as:


This type of radiation therapy offers an alternative treatment option for many complex tumors, including those that are recurring or located near critical organs in the body. In addition, proton therapy is often an ideal choice for pediatric cancer patients. Several studies suggest that this therapy effectively eliminates cancerous cells with less impact to surrounding cells which means children are exposed to less radiation and therefore may be less likely to develop a secondary radiation-induced cancer later in life.


3. Pinpoint accuracy results in less radiation damage to surrounding healthy tissues, thereby reducing side effects of treatment.

One of the primary advantages of this radiation treatment is its ability to deposit radiation directly to the tumor, with minimal impact to the healthy tissue in its path. There is virtually no exit dose, or radiation exposure that continues through the body beyond the tumor. This is especially important for tumors close to critical structures, such as the heart, lungs, or brain, which are responsible or vital functions. Less impact to nearby tissues and organs ensures that patients experience fewer short- and long-term side effects than conventional radiation. Many patients report that the treatment is more easily tolerated with less impact on their daily life.


4. This form of radiation therapy may be used to re-irradiate certain tumors, offering long-lasting tumor control.

Historically, radiation oncologists were unable to radiate previously treated areas, leaving patients with recurrent cancers little hope. Today, proton beam therapy’s precision targeting and growing research has changed that. The radiation oncologists at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital are leaders in re-irradiation, offering the possibility of long-lasting tumor control and sometimes even curing cancer in certain instances. Treatment depends on several factors, including the dose of initial treatment as well as the location and type of tumor. Currently, we offer re-irradiation to certain patients with recurrent cancers of the breast, prostate, pancreas, neck, and head. Our experienced multidisciplinary team are experts in planning and administering re-irradiation techniques to minimize risk and provide the best outcomes.

Proton therapy at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is proud to be the first and most experienced facility in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to offer proton therapy. In addition, patients chose us for cancer care because we offer access to:


  • The most advanced technology and the ability to choose among them to customize treatment for each patient.
  • The latest research and clinical trials through our research engine, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Washington, D.C., region.
  • An expert multidisciplinary team, bringing together the experience of radiation oncologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, and diagnostic radiologists to find the right approach for each patient’s needs.
There is no one-size-fits all treatment for cancer, so the first step is to determine whether it is the best treatment for your unique situation and health condition. During your first consultation, a specialized radiation oncologist will review your medical history and help you understand all of your treatment options. At MedStar Health, you’ll find all of the latest cancer treatments available today, delivered by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, close to home.


Find out if proton therapy may be right for you.

Click the button below to learn more and request a consultation today.

Learn More

Stay up to date and subscribe to our blog

Latest blogs