Lung Cancer

Proton therapy for lung cancer lowers the risk of side effects by delivering significantly less radiation to surrounding organs like the heart and healthy lung, compared to traditional radiation (x-ray/IMRT).

Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer Treatment

When treating lung cancer, radiation exposure is a major concern because the cancer may be close to a patient’s heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. Proton therapy has a distinct advantage over traditional radiation therapy in this area because it is much more precise and avoids unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue.

The precision of proton therapy allows physicians to deliver the prescribed radiation dose to the targeted area of the lung, while avoiding unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue. This minimizes damage to vital organs and lowers the risk of side effects during and after treatment.


Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in North America among both men and women. Smoking is the leading cause of most lung cancers, whether experienced from smoking directly or from secondhand smoke. A smoker’s risk increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes smoked.


Unlike many cancers, lung cancer typically doesn’t exhibit signs and symptoms until the disease has advanced significantly. If one or more of these symptoms occur, see your doctor immediately. As mentioned before, these symptoms do not appear in the earliest stages of lung cancer, so swift action should be taken. These symptoms may include:

  • Change in “smoker’s cough”
  • Coughing up blood
  • A persistent, new cough
  • Headache
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness


To diagnose lung cancer, a physician may use an x-ray or CT scan of the patient to look for a mass. The presence of lung cancer can also be revealed when the mucus from a patient’s productive cough is examined under a microscope. Pulmonologists, physicians focusing on the health of the respiratory system, may examine the lungs using specialized procedures. Biopsies, a doctor removing a sample of the abnormal cells to test for the presence of cancer, are often completed to confirm a diagnosis.


Non-invasive and painless, proton therapy for lung cancer allows physicians to provide doses of radiation to specific areas, controlling the depth of the protons emitted and reducing the impact on the surrounding tissue. Pencil beam scanning capabilities provide precise doses of radiation to targeted areas. As a result, patients experience fewer side effects.

With traditional photon radiation, side effects such as nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue and significant weight loss are common. However, with proton therapy, these side effects are nearly eliminated. Many patients have an improved recovery experience.

With proton therapy, much of the healthy tissue and critical organs surrounding the cancer is spared from receiving additional radiation. This is a major concern when it comes to radiation treatment for lung cancer because the cancer may be close to your heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton radiation to better conform to your cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it.

As illustrated in the chart below, doctors and scientists have been studying the results of proton therapy in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). One study in particular showed that patients with stage III NSCLC who were treated with proton therapy experienced lower rates of pneumonitis and esophagitis (inflammations of the lungs and esophagus) compared to patients treated with traditional radiation therapy such as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

Mesothelioma patients can also be good candidates for proton therapy. Mesothelioma and lung cancer have similar symptoms and both affect the lungs and chest, but they are different types of cancer. Lung cancer typically forms within the lungs, while mesothelioma usually develops in the lining of the lung.

Clinical Benefits of Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer Treatment

35% relative increase in overall survival for Stage II & III lung cancer.1

56% relative reduction in incidences of serious (grade 3) pain with swallowing (esophagitis).2

Up to 4-week reduction in treatment time for select cases.3

Nashville, TN

Telehealth now available. Speak to a physician from the safety of your own home. For information or to schedule a consultation, contact us to speak with a Cancer Care Expert.

Knoxville, TN

Telehealth now available. Speak to a physician from the safety of your own home. For information or to schedule a consultation, contact us to speak with a Cancer Care Expert.

Sources and Studies

1.National Cancer Database Analysis of Proton Versus Photon Radiaion Therapy in NSCLC. Read More

2.Proton Beam Radiotherapy and Concurrent Chemotherapy for Unresectable Stage III Non–Small Cell Lung CancerFinal Results of a Phase 2 Study. Read More

3.High-dose hypofractionated proton beam radiation therapy is safe and effective for central and peripheral early-stage non-small cell lung cancer: results of a 12-year experience at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Fractionation 10 for PBT vs 6-8 weeks for IMRT. Read More