Responding to a Brain Tumor

Tumors of the brain are classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign brain tumors may need to be treated because they can cause serious health problems by pressing on sensitive areas of the brain, or may become malignant over time.

Malignant tumors are classified as brain cancer if they originate in the brain or have spread to the brain from cancers in other parts of the body. Because the brain is so complex, treatment to this area might have long-term implications to the nervous system or other organs. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, we recommend learning about all your treatment options before making a decision.

Brain tumors most appropriate for proton therapy include:

  • Low-grade gliomas
  • Grade III gliomas
  • Recurrent glioblastoma (on clinical trial)
  • Meningiomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Medulloblastomas5
  • Pineoblastomas
  • Supratentorial PNET
  • Germ cell tumors

Request more information or call 877.887.5807 to learn if you can benefit from proton therapy.

Cadence Health Cancer Video
Watch a Video: Proton Therapy for Brain Tumors Hazeezat Makinde’s brain tumor was in a sensitive location so proton therapy was the perfect treatment option for her because of its accuracy and precision. To learn more about other tumor types, visit our Video Library.

Advantages of Proton Therapy Over Standard X-ray Radiation

Proton therapy typically results in less exposure to normal brain tissue, eyes, and the optic nerve compared to standard X-ray radiation. This is because protons precisely target a tumor without continuing past it the way X-rays do. Less healthy brain tissue is irradiated with proton therapy than with X-ray/intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).1,2 As a result, patients may experience fewer side effects and have a lower likelihood of secondary tumors in the future compared with other radiation treatments.3-4

Although brain tumors can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and standard X-ray radiation, proton therapy can be particularly beneficial for brain cancer patients. Since the brain is in close proximity to many critical organs, structures, and other parts of the nervous system, the ability of protons to precisely target the tumor makes proton therapy an effective treatment option for many brain tumors.

In the graphic to the left, you see that with proton therapy, the healthy tissue around the tumor and the critical organs have been spared any additional radiation. Some of the normal brain tissue receives 50 percent less radiation than with traditional X-rays.

Chicago Proton Center

What to Expect With Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is non-invasive and painless. Depending on the patient's diagnosis, treatments are usually given five days a week for a period of four to eight weeks. The time spent actually delivering the protons to the tumor is about one minute, but a treatment session for brain cancer can range from 30 to 45 minutes due to time spent positioning the patient for this precise treatment. In most cases patients continue with normal activities before and after treatment.

Learn more about what to expect when getting treated.

Chicago Proton Center

Contact Us

To discover if you or a loved one could benefit from proton therapy, please call us at 877.887.5807 (TTY for hearing impaired, call 630.933.4833) or request more information.

Brain Tumor Treatments

When treating tumors in the brain, a combination of treatments is often used.

Proton Therapy

A non-invasive treatment that uses proton radiation to kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing.

Proton therapy delivers less radiation to the non-target brain (defined as the normal brain minus the tumor area) than X-ray radiation. This decrease in dose to normal brain tissues may retain better overall brain function and reduce the likelihood of secondary tumors in the future.3-4

Standard X-Ray Radiation

A commonly used radiation treatment to kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing. Options may include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), Gamma Knife®, and CyberKnife®.

However, tissues in the brain are very sensitive. Radiating healthy brain tissue can result in loss of memory, cognitive skills, and mobility.


A surgery to the brain requiring the removal of a part of the skull.

After the surgeon has removed the tumor and affected cells, the patient’s own bone is used to cover the opening in the skull. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, risks may include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.


The use of drugs to kill or alter the cancer cells in the brain, often used in combination with other therapies.

Chemotherapy drugs can have improved effectiveness in treating brain tumors when used in combination with other treatments.