Frequently asked questions

How does Mayo Clinic decide which patients receive proton beam therapy?

The Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program is unique in that it is one of few hospital-based programs. This means that your Mayo Clinic radiation oncologist will have a full range of treatment options.

Proton beam therapy will be the best option for certain patients and tumor types while others may benefit from a different approach — another type of radiation therapy or no radiation at all. Mayo Clinic doctors will recommend treatment options tailored to your individual situation, as we have done for more than 150 years.

Is Mayo Clinic the first institution to use pencil beam scanning for the treatment of cancer patients?

Only a few treatment facilities in the United States offer this advanced proton therapy technique. All eight treatment rooms at Mayo Clinic's two facilities feature pencil beam scanning. Mayo is the first institution to operate pencil beam scanning facilities in the Midwest and Southwest.

What types of cancer benefit most from proton beam therapy?

The conditions Mayo Clinic anticipates considering for proton beam therapy as a treatment option include:

Bone cancer

Brain tumors

Brain tumors, pediatric

Breast cancer

Esophageal cancer

Eye melanoma/ocular melanoma

Gastrointestinal cancers

Gynecological cancers

Head and neck tumors

Liver cancer

Lung cancer


Pediatric cancers

Prostate cancer

Soft tissue cancer

Spine cancer

Does Mayo Clinic treat pediatric cancers with proton beam therapy?

Yes, children who have cancer are among those who will benefit the most from proton beam therapy.

Today, many pediatric cancers have significant cure rates — some higher than 90 percent. Proton beam therapy is targeted and helps to spare healthy tissue from the effects of radiation. People who must undergo radiation therapy early in life are less likely to have long-term side effects and complications from proton beam therapy, such as secondary malignancies, than with conventional radiation therapy.

How do I know if I'm a candidate for proton beam therapy at Mayo Clinic?

People who would like to be considered for proton beam therapy at Mayo Clinic must schedule an appointment for a radiation oncology consultation. Our doctors and other specialists meet with the patient, review the case and recommend the treatment course they feel is best, whether that treatment is proton beam therapy or another option.

Do I need a referral from my doctor to be seen at Mayo Clinic?

You do not need a referral from a doctor. You can contact our Appointment Office and request a radiation oncology consultation.

What do I need to bring to a radiation oncology consultation at Mayo Clinic?

Our patient appointment coordinator will provide you with a list of medical records needed in advance of your appointment. This may include but is not limited to:

  • A letter from your local provider summarizing your medical condition
  • A complete record of your immunizations to date
  • Copies of medical record information from health care providers outside of Mayo Clinic
  • Radiologic films, CDs, DVDs, videos and written radiologic reports related to the clinical question
  • Pathology slides and written pathology reports from relevant biopsies

Please let us know if you have any metal hardware in your body, including pacemakers and hip replacements.

Does health insurance cover proton beam therapy?

Medicare generally covers proton beam therapy. Coverage varies by insurance company and disease type.

We will work with each patient and the health insurance company to determine if proton beam therapy will be covered, if that is the recommended treatment. This includes any appeals process with the insurance company.

What is it like at Mayo Clinic? How do I get there? Where do I stay?

We want to help make your travel to Mayo Clinic as easy as possible. We provide information and a variety of services to help.

Our radiation oncology programs, including proton beam therapy, have patient experience coordinators to help you manage your stay.

Additionally, Mayo Clinic has free Concierge Services in Minnesota to help plan your stay, and fee-based Patient Travel Services.

What can I expect during proton beam therapy?

Learn about proton beam therapy including possible side effects, pretreatment planning, treatment sessions and follow-up care, and how we determine if treatment is affecting your cancer.

Why choose Mayo Clinic for proton beam therapy?

At Mayo Clinic, the needs of the patient come first. Our doctors and other specialists consult with their colleagues about each patient's condition and recommend treatment options based on their experience and evidence-based medicine. Proton beam therapy is an additional treatment option and will be recommended when it is the best choice for the patient's condition.

Nov. 22, 2017