Fighting Cancer. Precisely.

Fighting Cancer. Precisely.

Beat head & neck cancer & thrive while doing it
Beat head & neck cancer & thrive while doing it

Proton therapy for head & neck cancer

Precise Cancer Treatment

Cancer Treatment that allows patients to maintain their quality of life by reducing risks of side effects.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy that precisely treats the tumor using proton particles instead of x-rays. Protons do not deposit radiation beyond the tumor they are targeting, causing less damage to healthy tissue. Reducing unnecessary radiation results in fewer treatment-related side effects.

Take the first step to treat your head & neck cancer

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Proton Therapy for Head & Neck Cancer

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Precise Cancer Treatment

Cancer Treatment that allows patients to maintain their quality of life by reducing risks of side effects.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy that precisely treats the tumor using proton particles instead of x-rays. Protons do not deposit radiation beyond the tumor they are targeting, causing less damage to healthy tissue. Reducing unnecessary radiation results in fewer treatment-related side effects.

Take the first step to treat your breast cancer

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Proton Therapy for Head & Neck Cancer

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Treat Cancer with Power and Precision
Practical Benefits of Proton Therapy

Particularly effective in treating head & neck tumors

With so many delicate organs in the head and neck, it’s critical to deliver precise treatment surrounding a tumor. While radiation therapy can be effective in treating cancer, it also delivers radiation to healthy tissues surrounding a tumor. Proton Therapy is far more precise and can reduce damage to eyes, optic nerves, salivary glands, and other tissue and organs. This precision reduces the likelihood of subsequent side effects such as blindness, hearing deterioration, and dry mouth. Secondary malignancies are also less likely with proton therapy.

Precise treatment with fewer side effects

Proton Therapy is an advanced form of radiation
therapy that precisely targets the tumor utilizing proton particles. Proton particles stop inside the body and do not deposit radiation beyond the tumor they are targeting, causing less damage to healthy tissue. Proton therapy is effective in treating a broad range of tumors including brain, prostate, head and neck, central nervous system, lung, breast, sarcoma, gastrointestinal and many
pediatric cancers.

Maintain quality of life during & after treatment

Because proton therapy reduces treatment-related side effects, most patients are able to maintain their levels of pre-treatment activity throughout treatment.

Treat Cancer with Power and Precision
Clinical Benefits of Proton Therapy for Head & Neck Cancer
  • 45% reduction in overall risk of needing a feeding tube for nasopharyngeal cancer
  • 27% reduction in overall risk of needing a feeding tube for oropharyngeal cancer
  • 44% increase of relative 5-year disease free survival rate for nasal and paranasal sinus cavity cancers
  • 50% overall increase of disease control for chordomas
  • Less side effects during first 3 months after treatment, quicker return to normal function
  • 50% less likely to have secondary tumor from treatment

Proton Therapy delivers significantly less radiation to the spinal cord than X-Rays, reducing the likelihood of side effects.

A better, more precise option for treatment

Why Proton Therapy is particularly effective in treating head & neck tumors

More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with head and neck cancer. When treating head and neck tumors it’s critical to protect the delicate organs that surround the tumor. Proton therapy can substantially reduce damage to eyes, optic nerves, salivary glands, and other tissue and organs near head and neck tumors. Proton therapy also reduces the likelihood of side effects such as blindness, hearing deterioration, and dry mouth. Secondary malignancies are also less likely with proton therapy.  Head and neck tumors treated with proton therapy.

  • Nasopharynx (back of the nose where it meets the throat)
  • Nasal (nose) cavity
  • Paranasal sinuses (sinuses in the face)
  • Oropharynx (area of the throat at the back of the mouth), including the tonsils and base of tongue
Why Proton Therapy is the more precise choice.
Why Proton Therapy is the more precise choice.

Head and neck treatment with protons compared to treatment with conventional radiation/X-rays/IMRT

Protons can be controlled with greater precision than X-rays. This means that more energy goes into destroying the tumor and less radiation is delivered to surrounding healthy tissue.

For this reason, proton therapy is particularly good for treating tumors near healthy organs, including head and neck tumors.

In the chart above, the grey and white areas indicate no radiation exposure, while the colored areas indicate radiation exposure.

What is proton therapy?

Proton therapy uses charged particles (protons) rather than x-rays to selectively destroy cancer cells. This results in excellent rates of cancer control with a much lower risk of side effects compared with other forms of radiation therapy.

What makes proton therapy different?

Proton therapy is a highly advanced and extremely precise form of radiation. The physical properties of protons, described by the Bragg-Peak (Figure 1 down below on page), and the increased conformality of pencil beam scanning make it possible to spare healthy surrounding organs from unnecessary radiation exposure during treatment.

Why is this important?

When treating breast cancer with proton therapy, surrounding tissue and vital organs such as the heart and lungs are exposed to far less radiation than standard therapy. Therefore, women treated with proton therapy experience fewer side effects and an improved quality of life during and after treatment.

Is proton therapy effective?

Yes! Many clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of proton therapy for treating head & neck cancer.

Less radiation, better quality of life

Proton therapy deposits less radiation dose before reaching the tumor, then deposits the prescribed dose within the tumor, and has no exit dose.

X-ray radiation must start with a higher dose that gradually declines to the prescription dose at the tumor, then continues to deposit radiation in healthy surrounding tissue as it exits the body.

Bragg-Peak (Figure 1)

Committed to our cause since 1985

The Thompson Cancer Survival Center Story

Karen

Proton Therapy Patient

Head & Neck Cancer (left tonsil)

Diagnosis: Karen Gomez is a healthy retiree in her early 70s. She rarely gets sick and has never had a medical crisis, so she was shocked to receive a diagnosis of neck and throat cancer in early 2023.

“I had cancer in my left tonsil, which was strange because I had my tonsils removed at age 20,” Gomez says. “The ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist] said the remaining tissue spread into my two lymph nodes, seemingly overnight.”

Treatment: Each day, five days a week, for 7 weeks ,Gomez came to the proton center and was positioned on a table. The technicians created a mask for her to wear that allowed the precise beam of radiation to hit its mark.

"They were so good with me, I don’t think I would have made it without them,” Gomez says about the care team at TPC. “Dr. Grover was great. He was very professional and careful with me. The radiation technicians who helped me, they were just awesome. One of them hugged me when I was feeling weak, and she encouraged me. The two guys helping me onto the table also helped me fix my long hair so it was out of the way. It was just incredible."

World-Class treatment, right in Knoxville, TN

Our Region's ONLY Proton Treatment Center

Thompson Proton Center is one of less than 50 proton centers in the entire world. And, we’re proud to be members of Thompson Cancer Survival Center, where leading cancer specialists use the most advanced technologies and treatment methods to achieve breakthrough successes. Our network of cancer care providers are supported by a team of patient navigators, oncology pharmacists, dietitians, genetics counselors, clinical trials experts, physicists, therapists, technologists, and nurses with one goal: to treat and beat your cancer.

Our leading oncologists

You’re in good hands with Thompson Proton Center

Radiation Oncologist
and Medical Director

Ryan Grover, MD

Residency:
Radiation Oncology
Loma Linda University Medical Center 

Medical School:
University of Southern California

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Radiation Oncologist

Brion Shin, MD

Residency:
Radiation Oncology
Loma Linda University Medical Center

Medical School:
Loma Linda University Medical Center

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Radiation Oncologist

Allen Meek, MD

Residency:
Radiation Oncology
Johns Hopkins University 

Medical School: 
Johns Hopkins University 

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What happens next?
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