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Proton beam therapy, also known as proton therapy, is a cutting-edge type of radiation therapy used for some types of cancer in children, teens and adults. It can be effective with fewer side effects than other types of radiation. 

Only a few medical centers in the U.S. offer this high-tech cancer treatment. In fall 2024, Atrium Health Levine Cancer Proton & Advanced Radiation Center will become the only center in the Carolinas to offer proton therapy.

Our facility unites experts across Levine Cancer and Atrium Health Levine Children's in a supportive environment that prioritizes your comfort. And when you come to us for care, a dedicated team of specialists will work together to ensure you receive the most effective treatment for your specific diagnosis. 

Cutting-edge cyclotron arrives in Charlotte

  • In December 2023, a state-of-the-art accelerator unit – the engine of the proton center – was delivered to our facility in Charlotte. Weighing in at 15 tons, this crucial piece of equipment will serve as the powerhouse for proton beam therapy when installation is complete in 2024.

What is proton beam therapy?   

Proton therapy uses strong, focused energy beams to deliver radiation to a tumor. The radiation destroys tumor cells so the tumor starts shrinking. 

Other types of radiation therapy also work by damaging tumor cells, but can harm surrounding healthy tissue. Proton therapy is powerful because it is very precise. This means it can directly hit the tumor with radiation with a lower risk of damage to healthy tissue. 

Proton therapy has many potential benefits, including:

  • Fewer side effects: Because less radiation impacts healthy tissue, patients may experience fewer side effects like nausea and difficulty breathing.
  • Lower risks for children: Proton therapy can treat pediatric cancer while minimizing long-term risks. Children are more prone to long-term damage from other types of radiation because their bodies are still developing.
  • Tailored to you: Doctors can customize proton therapy to treat the size and shape of your tumor most effectively. 
  • Treating complex tumors: Proton therapy can effectively treat tumors near a vital organ, like your brain, heart or lungs, with a low risk of damaging these organs. It can also be a treatment option if you’ve received radiation in the same area in the past and cancer recurred. 
  • Painless: Like other types of radiation therapy, proton therapy is a painless, non-invasive procedure.  

Conditions we treat with proton beam therapy

Proton therapy can treat many different kinds of cancer. It’s most often used to treat tumors that are very close to a vital organ and haven’t metastasized or spread to other parts of your body. Sometimes proton therapy is the only treatment you need. It can also be used in combination with other therapies.

Some of the conditions we treat with proton therapy include: 

If you or your loved one has one of these conditions, our expert team can evaluate if proton therapy is right for you.

Why choose Levine Cancer for proton beam therapy? 

  • World-class care, closer to home: Less than 50 centers nationwide offer proton beam, and Levine Cancer will be the only cancer center in the Carolinas with this advanced treatment option. We also offer the full range of cancer therapies, and our expert team tailors your treatment plan to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
  • Expert team: Our patients are cared for by top experts across Levine Cancer and Levine Children’s. Depending on your diagnosis, your team may include radiation oncologists, oncologists, medical physicists, nurses and other providers who are highly specialized in every aspect of your care. 
  • Prioritizing your comfort: Everyone on our team – from the reception staff to nurses to doctors – is dedicated to providing you with the best possible experience. Our facility is designed to help you feel comfortable and supported throughout your journey.
  • Integrated supportive services: Our many supportive therapies – like music, art and massage – are available in the same facility where you’ll receive proton therapy. This helps integrate these important therapies into your care to promote healing and wellness. 
  • Access to care: Our Global Healthcare Services team and nonprofit partners may be able to help you with travel, lodging and other logistics to make it easier for you to get the treatment you need.

What to expect from proton beam therapy

If your doctor recommends proton therapy, we’ll make sure you know what to expect at every step.

  • Before treatment

    Your first visit will be a consultation to decide if proton therapy is right for you. Doctors will then perform several advanced imaging tests to pinpoint the size, shape and location of the tumor. This information helps them plan the most effective treatment.

  • During treatment

    We’ll help you get into position on the treatment table so you’ll be comfortable and the proton beams can best reach the tumor. You’ll hear a clicking sound from the machine as it delivers proton radiation beams, but you won’t feel or see them.

  • After treatment

    Most patients come in for treatment 5 days a week for several weeks. The number of treatments you need will be determined with your doctor. You can typically go home after a session is complete and return to normal activities after each session.

For referring providers 

You can begin referring patients for proton therapy in fall 2024. We’ll evaluate your patient for the full range of oncological therapies to determine if proton therapy or another therapy is best for them. We keep you informed and involved throughout their treatment and transition them back to your care when treatment is complete.

Check back here in the coming months for more information about proton therapy referrals. For questions about referrals, please reach out to our proton beam coordinator at If you'd like to refer a patient to Levine Cancer for other treatments and care, please call 980-442-2000.

Meet the team

Our team includes national leaders in radiation oncology who are experts in the full range of radiation therapies. Meet our proton therapy providers.

Frequently asked questions