Proton Therapy for Recurrent Cancers

Cancers Treated: Recurrent Cancers

Recurrent Cancers and Re-Irradiation

When cancer comes back after you’ve had no signs of it in your body for a while, it is called a recurrence. A recurrent cancer may or may not return in the same part of the body where it originated. A recurrent cancer can be:

  • Local, occurring in the same place it originally appeared.
  • Regional, occurring in the lymph nodes near the original site.
  • Distant, occurring in another part of the body.

Whatever the location, these cancers are still named after the part of the body where they originated. For example, if cancer that originally occurred in the lung appears in the bone, it is still called lung cancer, but “lung cancer metastatic to bone.” Metastatic means there is distant spread of cancer.

The risk of cancer recurring is not easy to predict, but it is more likely in cancers that are fast-growing, large, or involve lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis.


Why proton therapy?

Proton therapy may be an option for many recurrent cancers specifically because there is less risk of exposure to areas previously treated with radiation. In some cases, patients who have had previous radiation therapy are not be able to be treated with it again in the same area. That is because too much radiation can cause irreversible damage to healthy tissues. Re-irradiation to the same area is safer if the initial dose was not very high or occurred a long time ago, and very focused doses are used to treat cancer a second time.

Proton therapy can deliver targeted doses of radiation to tumors, with less exposure to healthy surrounding tissue. Protons stop in the area of the tumor, but the X-rays used in traditional radiation continue on and spill over into healthy tissues after exiting the tumor. The more focused nature of proton therapy makes it an option for some patients who have previously had radiation. With proton therapy, patients may run less risk of side effects and safety problems from re-treatment, but it is not always possible to predict a particular patient’s response.

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Learn More About Treatment of Recurrent Cancers

Information from the National Cancer Institute

Information about recurrent cancer, causes, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

Learn More: NCI