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Gastrointestinal cancers FAQs

These answers to frequently asked questions about proton therapy for gastrointestinal cancers can help you decide whether this treatment is right for you. You can also contact us directly for more information.

What types of upper GI cancers can be treated with proton therapy?

Proton therapy is highly effective in the treatment of esophageal cancers such as esophageal adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.


Proton therapy can also be an effective treatment for primary liver cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), bile duct cancers (cholangiocarcinoma), pancreatic cancers, and liver metastases or cancerous tumors that originated elsewhere but spread to the liver.


Recurrent upper GI tumors are often treatable with proton therapy, even tumors that were previously treated with radiation therapy.

What are the benefits of proton therapy for liver, biliary, and pancreatic cancers?

Like proton therapy for esophageal cancer, proton therapy delivers more radiation to the tumor and significantly less to the surrounding normal organs, including the healthy liver, stomach, bowel, and kidneys. Research shows this allows proton therapy to be a less toxic option for the treatment of liver cancers.

Are there side effects?

Side effects of proton therapy depend on the location of the tumor and the types of healthy tissue near the tumor. The most common side effects of radiation therapy for upper GI tumors are fatigue, skin irritation, and nausea.

Can I have proton therapy if I had previous radiation for another type of cancer?

Yes—patients who previously received radiation are good candidates for proton therapy because proton therapy minimizes exposure to healthy tissue and organs. This is extremely important as the human body can only tolerate a certain amount of radiation over a lifetime. Reducing the cumulative dose to the normal tissues may reduce the risk of side effects and allow for more radiation dose to be focused to the tumor, allowing for a better chance of a cure.

How many treatments are required?

The number of treatments varies according to the unique characteristics of your tumor. However, treatment is usually administered five days a week for between one to six weeks.

Does the New York Proton Center offer clinical trials?

With an active research program, we are pleased to offer a growing number of clinical trials for a variety of cancers. We are currently enrolling eligible patients in:

      • NYPC 2020-027  Phase II Study of Pencil Beam Scanning Proton Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer: NCT04842890

Read more about this trial, other latest clinical trials, and proton therapy research at New York Proton Center.


Download a pdf about proton therapy for gastrointestinal cancers.

Patients who receive proton therapy for upper gastrointestinal tumors are at lower risk of long-term side effects than those who receive traditional radiation therapy with photons.

How can we help?

Want to find out if proton therapy might be a good fit for you or your patient? Call us at 833-NYPROTON (833-697-7686) or fill out the appropriate form below.