What types of cancer can be treated with proton therapy?

Many clinical studies are ongoing to compare the effectiveness of proton therapy with traditional X-ray photon therapy. So far, it is unclear whether proton therapy improves tumor control or reduce side effects compared to photon therapy for most types of cancer.

Proton therapy is typically only used to treat certain types of cancers, including:

What are the risks of proton therapy?

Skin problems can be a common side effect of radiation treatment and may include:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Irritation
  • Blistering
  • Peeling

The side effects you experience also depend on the location of the tumor. Early side effects, which generally occur during or immediately following treatment, may include:

Late side effects, which occur months to years after treatment, are usually permanent. Depending on the area being treated, late side effects may include:

  • Brain and spinal cord changes
  • Lung changes
  • Bowel changes
  • Infertility
  • Lymphedema (swelling of a limb)

Any type of radiation therapy, including proton therapy, slightly increases your risk of developing new cancers.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/17/2019.


  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Proton Therapy. Accessed 1/18/2019.
  • National Association for Proton Therapy. How It Works. Accessed 1/18/2019.
  • Radiological Society of North America. Proton Therapy. Accessed 1/18/2019.

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