Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Cancers

Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck tumors are challenging to treat with radiation therapy because there are many sensitive structures nearby, such as the brain, spine, eyes, ears, nose and throat. Salivary and thyroid glands can also be affected.

The most advanced facility of its kind in Southern California, the Scripps Proton Therapy Center uses precise radiation treatments to help overcome these challenges. Protons deposit their maximum energy directly in tumors, reducing exposure to other organs and tissues. As a result, some patients with head and neck cancers can receive higher doses to tumors, which may improve their chances for a cure. Proton radiation treatments may also decrease radiation to surrounding healthy tissue, which could reduce the risk of damage, and lower the likelihood of secondary cancers.

Head & Neck Cancers Treated

  • Oropharynx, including tongue cancer and tonsil cancer
  • Lip cancer and oral cancer
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer

Learn more about proton therapy and the evidence supporting its use.

About Proton Therapy


Proton Therapy Expertise

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The clinical and scientific teams have more than 90 years of combined experience treating patients with proton therapy. Learn more about the experts at the center.

Why Choose Scripps

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From diagnosis and treatment to navigation and support, Scripps offers comprehensive cancer care. Learn how proton therapy further complements these services.

Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Tumors

Proton therapy is an extremely targeted form of radiation treatment. This precision is especially important for patients suffering from head or neck cancers. Sight, hearing, taste, swallowing and even brain power can be affected when radiation hits healthy tissue adjacent to the tumor.

Protons are an effective option because they can be targeted to deposit their maximum energy directly in diseased tissue. As a result, less radiation reaches sensitive healthy structures near the cancer. In many cases, aggressive cancers can be treated with higher doses. In addition, patients with recurrent cancers may be able to receive a second course of treatment, which might not have been possible with other forms of radiation.

This accuracy is even further enhanced by Scripps’ advanced imaging and pencil beam scanning technology, which focuses a narrow proton beam — smaller than the width of a pencil — to precisely target tumors.

Head and neck cancers treated with proton therapy

See the evidence supporting proton therapy as a treatment option for head and neck cancers.

Support services

Cancer treatment can be a difficult time for both patients and their families. Understanding this, Scripps offers a wide variety of care to ease the burden. Learn more about the support services available.

What to expect

Each patient’s therapy is precisely tailored to his or her needs. Patients and clinicians collaborate closely to create a personalized treatment plan. The number and length of treatments will vary, based on the cancer. How patients respond depends on many factors, including the types of treatments they are receiving. Many people tolerate proton therapy well and continue to perform normal activities. However, individual responses will vary. Learn more about what to expect during treatment.

Proton therapy is a highly precise form of external radiation therapy that can be used for tumor control in select patients. All cancer treatments have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to discuss these, as well as your treatment options, with your cancer specialist.

Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer Research