Who can Benefit the Most from Proton Therapy?

Proton therapy is most beneficial for patients with solid tumors near critical organs or structures that have not spread to other areas of the body. However, if the tumor has spread (metastasized), proton therapy may still be an option. Proton cancer treatment may also benefit patients who cannot tolerate any more X-ray radiation.

Proton therapy is a recommended treatment for many patients, including:

  • Patients whose tumors are near critical organs or structures, such as brain, heart, lungs, GI tract, spine and head and neck
  • Patients who also need chemotherapy
  • Patients whose cancers have recurred
  • Patients who cannot have any more X-ray radiation treatment and have reached their limit for traditional radiation
  • Pediatric patients

The types of tumors treated using proton therapy will continue to expand as research continues and care teams develop proton cancer treatment plans for more types of tumors.

Proton therapy is not appropriate for all types of cancers or all patients. Only a healthcare provider can determine the best approach for each unique condition.

Can children receive proton therapy?

Children’s bodies are still growing. This means they can have more serious short-term and long-term side effects from X-ray radiation than adults.7 Research shows that proton therapy can reduce the risk of developmental and growth delays and abnormalities, reductions in IQ and other issues often linked with standard X-ray radiation. This is why proton therapy is often preferred when children need radiation treatment.

Benefits of Proton Therapy Treatment To learn more about other tumor types, visit our Video Library.

Finding Out if Proton Therapy Is Right for You

Your specific diagnosis and other factors will help determine if you could benefit from proton therapy. When you call the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center, one of our team members will ask you several questions regarding your medical history to determine if you are a good candidate for proton cancer treatment.

Our team will assist you in collecting the following documents and information before presenting your case to the physician review board for evaluation:

  • Your cancer diagnosis
  • Imaging or diagnostic records from your physician
  • Any prior cancer treatment you may have had
  • Pathology reports
  • Your current medications and any allergies
  • Operative reports
  • Lab reports
  • Insurance information
  • Availability for treatment
  • A physician's referral for radiation therapy

We want to make the process of getting treatment as easy as possible. If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are considering proton therapy as a treatment option, call 877.887.5807 to request a consultation or speak to a team member about your questions.

Request Appointment

Medical Consultation and Review

A physician review board will evaluate your diagnosis in detail to determine if you may benefit from proton therapy. Once your diagnosis has been reviewed, you will be contacted to discuss the next steps. If your diagnosis is not appropriate for proton therapy, other treatment options may be recommended.

A male proton therapy physician and elderly male patient discussing a scan. 
A staff member at the Proton Center helping a patient with medical coverage.

Securing Medical Coverage

During the intake and medical review process, a team member will ask for your insurance carrier information in order to determine your plan's coverage, including if authorization (sometimes referred to as certification, pre-cert, prior authorization, etc.) must be submitted and approved to schedule appointments or for the start of proton therapy treatments. Most private insurance plans, Medicare, and in many cases, Medicaid, cover proton therapy on a disease and/or medical necessity basis. If your insurance doesn't cover all of your expenses, one of our team members can help walk you through estimates based on typical treatment for that tumor type. Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) has a Financial Assistance program that helps uninsured or underinsured patients based on completion of the financial assistance application and meeting eligibility requirements. More Financial Assistance information here.