Men report proton therapy side effects has lower impact on their quality of life than other treatments

Proton therapy patients report fewer side effects after prostate cancer treatment


A national survey of prostate cancer patients shows that proton therapy side effects have less impact on quality of life compared to patients who choose other treatment options. The benefits of proton therapy for prostate cancer are well-documented by clinical research, and these patient-reported outcomes further verify the advantages.


The survey was conducted by Bryant Research, an independent research firm based in Tennessee. It profiled 755 men between the ages of 50-75 who had been treated for prostate cancer. All respondents were treated at least 12 months prior to taking the survey, ensuring they had plenty of time to evaluate their own response to treatment.

Each participant was asked which treatment modality they chose. Their answers included proton therapy, traditional x-ray radiation therapy, brachytherapy (seed implants), and surgery. They were then asked a series of questions regarding their quality of life after treatment.

Specifically, the survey asked patients about common side effects associated with prostate cancer treatment, including:

  • Remaining active during treatment
  • Controlling urinary function after treatment
  • Maintaining sexual function after treatment

The survey also asked participants if they felt their treatment interfered with their overall quality of life after treatment and whether they were able to live life the way they wanted. Patients were also asked if they would recommend their chosen treatment to others.


Patients who chose proton therapy reported the best outcomes across the board. Most notably, more than 70% of patients reported proton therapy side effects did not interfere at all with their overall quality of life, significantly beating out the other treatment options.1

The information below reflects the percentage of patients who reported their treatment did not interfere with the indicated lifestyle side effects.

Overall Quality of Life After Treatment

  • Proton Therapy: 71%
  • Brachytherapy: 46%
  • Traditional Radiation: 42%
  • Surgery: 29%

Remaining Active During Treatment

  • Proton Therapy: 80%
  • Brachytherapy: 55%
  • Traditional Radiation: 47%
  • Surgery: 34%

Controlling Urinary Function After Treatment

  • Proton Therapy: 64%
  • Traditional Radiation: 43%
  • Brachytherapy: 32%
  • Surgery: 22%

Maintaining Sexual Function After Treatment

  • Proton Therapy: 40%
  • Brachytherapy: 22%
  • Traditional Radiation: 21%
  • Surgery: 4%

Living Life the Way I Want After Treatment

  • Proton Therapy: 73%
  • Brachytherapy: 42%
  • Traditional Radiation: 40%
  • Surgery: 31%

All in all, 97% of proton therapy patients said they would select this same treatment option if they had to make the decision again. That’s compared to just 68% for brachytherapy patients and even fewer for those who chose traditional radiation or surgery.

Highlights from the prostate cancer treatment Quality of Life survey
Click the image to view the highlights of our Quality of Life Survey.


Based on these results, it’s easy to see why 97% of proton therapy patients also said they would recommend their treatment to other men with prostate cancer. That number is significantly higher than the other treatment options.

So, what makes proton therapy such an ideal treatment option for prostate cancer? First and foremost, it is more precise, targeting the tumor directly and minimizing damage to nearby healthy cells. That means physicians can treat the cancer with pinpoint accuracy and avoid unnecessary radiation to vital organs, like the bladder, bowel, and rectum.

The advanced technology results in a lower risk of proton therapy side effects during and after treatment. In addition to the patient-reported lifestyle benefits from this survey, several clinical studies demonstrate the advantages of proton therapy for prostate cancer. Some of the highlights include:

  • 25% lower risk of erectile dysfunction2
  • 50% reduction in bowel frequency and urgency3
  • 42% reduction in relative risk of developing a secondary cancer4

Given the benefits of proton therapy, both clinical and patient-reported, we encourage anyone with prostate cancer to consider this advanced treatment. A radiation oncologist can evaluate your specific diagnosis and discuss your treatment options. Getting a second opinion from a proton-experienced physician will ensure you are making a well-informed healthcare decision.


Sources & Studies:

  1. Awareness and Impressions of Selected Prostate Cancer Treatment Options Survey. Bryant Research. 2013.
  2. Pan HY, Jiang J, Hoffman KE, et al. Comparative Toxicities and Cost of Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy, Proton Radiation, and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy Among Younger Men With Prostate Cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Jun 20;36(18):1823-1830.
  3. Hoppe BS, Michalski JM, Mendenhall NP, et al. Comparative Effectiveness Study of Patient-Reported Outcomes following Proton Therapy or IMRT for Prostate Cancer. Cancer. 2014 Apr 1;120(7);1076-82.
  4. Hartsell W, Bentefour H, Dooling D, Mendenhall N. Proton Therapy is Associated with Superior Survival and Decreased Risk of Complications Compared to IMRT for Intermediate Risk Prostate Cancer: A Medicare/SEER Database Study. Abstract 34 presented at PTCOG-NA Annual Meeting. 2017 Oct 23-25.