Pancreatic & Bile Duct

Proton Therapy for Pancreatic and Bile Duct Cancer Treatment

Fight Pancreatic & Bile Duct Cancer with Laser-like Precision

California Protons’ intensity-modulated pencil beam scanning technology is a highly precise form of cancer radiation treatment that enables our doctors to selectively target pancreatic and bile duct tumors with high-dose radiation within this sensitive and challenging area.

Compared with older passive-scattering proton therapy treatment for pancreatic & bile duct cancer, our pencil beam scanning technology precisely delivers radiation treatment for pancreatic and bile duct cancer within 2 millimeters and with the utmost care. We can attack tumors layer by layer and minimize harmful exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. This is important for pancreatic cancer patients because minimizing radiation to surrounding healthy tissue is crucial as your pancreas is located near several sensitive and critical tissues and organs. The reduction of radiation-related toxicity also increases the likelihood that patients can complete treatment with fewer interruptions or delays.

Pancreatic & Bile Duct Cancer
Proton Therapy Treatment Details

What We Treat

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)
  • Recurrent cancer

What We Do

  • Target the tumor only
  • Protect your liver, stomach, kidneys, small intestine and spinal cord
  • Maintain your quality of life during pancreatic and bile duct cancer treatment
  • Reduce side effects of treatment, including nausea, vomiting, heartburn, cramping, malabsorption (inability to absorb nutrients from food), diarrhea and dehydration
  • Lower the risk of secondary cancer due to radiation

Compared to X-ray radiation, proton therapy for pancreatic cancer reduces radiation exposure to vital organs by:

Reduced radiation exposure to the spinal cord1
Reduced radiation exposure to the liver1

Benefits of Proton Therapy for Pancreatic & Bile Duct Cancer

  • Our pencil beam scanning technology precisely controls protons to place the Bragg peak—the point at which they deposit their maximum energy—directly in the tumor. This allows us to treat more complex tumor shapes and vary the dose within the tumor.
  • Advanced proton therapy allows doctors to more selectively deliver high-dose radiation to cancerous pancreatic and bile duct tumors and tissues, and reduce the dose to surrounding healthy tissues and critical organs. This has been shown to deliver higher cure rates than X-ray radiation treatment even in some of the most challenging situations.
  • Doctors can meticulously deliver high treatment doses of radiation to tumor cells, without overdosing surrounding critical organs and fragile tissues, such as your liver, stomach, kidneys, small intestine and spinal cord. Sparing these healthy tissues is extremely important as damage to these sensitive structures can result in ulceration, perforation, internal bleeding and failure.
  • Specialized techniques can be used with proton therapy to target moving structures and organs with greater technical precision. This is important for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, when precision is key.
  • Unlike with older technology, the treatment plan can be loaded into the computer and completed within a matter of minutes. Treatments are also non-invasive and convenient so patients can get back to their daily activities quicker.

Proton Therapy Treatment for Pancreatic & Bile Duct Cancer
Right for You?


While pancreatectomy surgery or the Whipple procedure is generally recommended for early-stage (resectable) pancreatic cancer that has not spread, radiation therapy may be recommended as well to ensure all of the cancer cells have been killed. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be used in patients who cannot undergo surgery. Treatment options are also affected by the type of pancreatic cancer, age, overall health and personal preferences.

At stage I pancreatic cancer is found in the pancreas only but its local growth affects more than a single layer of cells. While surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment, radiation therapy for stage I resectable pancreatic cancer is often recommended to ensure all of the cancer cells have been killed.

Pancreatic cancer at stage II has spread outside the pancreas or to lymph nodes. While surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment, radiation therapy for resectable stage II pancreatic cancer is often recommended to ensure all of the cancer cells have been killed and to reduce the risk of cancer spreading or returning.

Cancer has spread into major blood vessels or nerves but has not metastasized or affected other organs. While surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment, doctors likely are not able to remove all of it. At stage III, the pancreatic cancer is locally advanced and radiation may recommended in an attempt to shrink the tumor, limit additional tumor growth and reduce the risk of spread to other areas of the body.

At stage IV pancreatic cancer, cancer has spread from the pancreas to other organs. Drug therapy such as chemotherapy is the main treatment recommended for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. While surgery may be performed, these cancers cannot be completely removed. Proton radiation treatment may be used to shrink tumors or control pain.

Treatment for
Recurrent Pancreatic Cancer

Proton therapy is often the best way to treat recurrent tumors in areas that have previously been treated with radiation therapy.

Treating previously irradiated areas can be challenging. The healthy tissues around the recurrent tumor do not fully “forget” the previous radiation dose, and any added dose continues to increase the risk of normal tissue injury. Proton beam therapy may enable doctors to better concentrate the dose to the target and limit it elsewhere, allowing re-treatment with radiation in select patients.

Pancreatic & Bile Duct Proton Treatment Outcomes & Long-Term Effects

Proton therapy treatment for pancreatic cancer at California Protons Cancer Therapy Center in San Diego may offer similar outcomes to standard X-ray radiation, while reducing long-term and potentially life-threatening side effects such as ulceration, perforation, internal bleeding and organ failures due to radiation damage to the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal organs. It may also lower chances for secondary cancers later in life due to the reduced radiation exposure to your surrounding healthy tissues and organs.

However, all cancer treatments have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to discuss all of the potential risks, as well as treatment options, with your oncologist.

About Proton Therapy

Coverage Options