Frequently asked questions

Proton beam specialist cares for a child in a treatment room.

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

The Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program is one of very few hospital-based programs in the United States. This means highly specialized radiation oncologists work in a multidisciplinary environment that considers all your needs. At Mayo Clinic, your radiation oncologist will have a full range of treatment options and provide guidance for optimal care.

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 specialists will work with you to develop the most effective treatment options tailored to your individual situation.

What types of cancer benefit most from proton beam therapy?

Pediatric tumors are among the most beneficial to treat with proton beam therapy, as it imparts less damage to a child's still-developing organs. Tumors near the brain also can highly benefit from proton beam therapy because there is no exit radiation to cause additional tissue damage. However, a wide range of cancers may benefit from proton beam therapy, and your oncologist will work with you to develop the treatment plan most appropriate for your cancer and your needs.

Does Mayo Clinic treat pediatric cancers with proton beam therapy?

Yes. Children who have cancer are among those who 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, such as secondary cancers, with proton beam therapy 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. Mayo Clinic doctors and other specialists will review your case and consult with you to discuss all treatment options. Together, you will develop a treatment course that best fits your needs and condition, 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 the Mayo Clinic 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.

Proton beam specialists cares for a patient in a treatment room.

Does health insurance cover proton beam therapy?

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

Mayo Clinic specialists work with each patient and the health insurance company to determine if proton beam therapy is 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?

Mayo Clinic wants to help make your travel to Mayo Clinic as easy as possible. Travel specialists provide information and a variety of services to help.

Mayo Clinic’s radiation oncology programs, including proton beam therapy, have patient experience coordinators to help you manage your stay. Your doctors will take the time to get to know you and understand your treatment goals. Your treatment plans take your values and preferences into account.

Additionally, Mayo Clinic has free Concierge Services in Minnesota to help plan your stay, and also offers 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 specialists determine whether treatment is affecting your cancer.

Why choose Mayo Clinic for proton beam therapy?

At Mayo Clinic, the needs of the patient come first.

Each year, almost 120,000 people with cancer receive care at Mayo Clinic. This experience means your doctors are equipped with the knowledge and resources to provide you with exactly the care you need.

Mayo Clinic 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 one of many treatments options and is recommended when it is the best choice for the patient's needs and condition.

June 22, 2023