Proton beam specialists conferring with a patient in a treatment room.

The latest chapter in radiation treatment

Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center Blog

Read the latest news, information and stories from Mayo Clinic's cancer experts and patients


The benefits of proton therapy include:

  • Ability to deliver higher therapeutic doses of radiation to tumors
  • Lower radiation exposure to normal tissue, reducing short- and long-term side effects, including development of new cancers
  • A treatment alternative for people with cancer recurrences who have undergone previous radiation therapy procedures

Every person's tumor is unique. At Mayo Clinic, one of the first decisions specialists make with you after your diagnosis is whether or not radiation is appropriate. If so, Mayo Clinic offers a wide range of radiation treatments, including radioactive implants (brachytherapy), traditional radiation (photons) and proton therapy. For many people, strategically administered conventional radiation is the best treatment. But others require a different form of radiation, especially those with tumors next to and in vital organs, those who are sensitive to radiation's side effects, and children, whose tissues are still developing.

At Mayo Clinic, you'll work with your doctor and a team of specialists dedicated to developing an individualized plan that is best for your specific needs. Together, you will plot a treatment course that ensures that you receive the treatment with the highest success rate and fewest side effects.

Mayo Clinic specialists have a wide range of therapies available to you, based on your condition, needs and, in some cases, genetics. Choices include surgery, chemotherapy, traditional radiation and proton therapy. You may receive one or a combination, depending on your needs.

If your treatment calls for radiation, you are far from alone. More than half of all people with cancer receive radiation therapy. The reason is simple: It's effective. Radiation directs intense energy at cancer cells to destroy the genetic material that controls cell growth.

Unfortunately, radiation affects both healthy and cancerous cells. The main advantage of proton therapy is that it can deliver higher doses to the cancer cells while minimally affecting healthy cells.

More radiation, with less risk

Traditional X-ray treatment delivers radiation to everything in its path. That means tissue in front of and behind the tumor receives some damaging radiation. Most adult bodies can absorb and repair such collateral damage. But if your tumor is next to or in a vital organ, such as your brain or heart, traditional radiation can pose additional risks.

It also poses additional risks to children. They are more sensitive to the effects of radiation therapy as their bodies are still growing and developing. Compared to X-ray radiation therapy, proton therapy radiates fewer normal, healthy cells. This can help avoid health issues later in life, such as reduced growth, hearing and vision loss, heart disease and additional cancers.

Proton therapy is more precise.

Proton therapy uses the positively charged particles in an atom (protons) that release their energy within the target: the tumor. There is lower entrance radiation and virtually none travels beyond the tumor. Because proton beams can be much more finely controlled, specialists can safely deliver higher doses of radiation to tumors when needed.

Proton therapy is beneficial in the treatment of many kinds of tumors, including brain, breast, esophageal, eye, gastrointestinal, gynecological, head and neck, liver, lung, lymphoma, prostate, soft tissue, spine, and many pediatric cancers.

Proton beam medical director cares for a child in a treatment room.



  • Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy
  • 5881 E. Mayo Blvd.
    Phoenix, AZ 85054
  • Phone: 480-515-6296


  • Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy
  • 190 Second Street NW
    Rochester, MN 55901
  • Phone: 507-284-2511
June 22, 2023