Frequently Asked Questions

What is hadrontherapy?

Hadrontherapy is a particular form of radiation therapy used for cancer treatment. Unlike conventional radiotherapy that uses X-rays, hadrontherapy uses beams of heavy particles, called hadrons.
Thanks to the special physical properties that characterize these particles, hadrontherapy offers potential advantages over conventional radiotherapy because it allows the treatment to “hit” the tumor in a highly accurate and selective way, delivering a lower dose to surrounding healthy tissue and thus reducing harmful side effects and collateral damage. Hadrontherapy also offers the potential for increased biological effectiveness for certain types of typically radio-resistant cancer cells, i.e. those not responding optimally to radiotherapy with X-ray.

How do I find out if hadrontherapy is appropriate for treating my illness?

By first asking the doctor who is treating you and then, together, contacting the Medical Service of CNAO for further information and instructions: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If the hadrontherapy spares healthy tissues and gives fewer side effects, why is not suitable for me?

The factors that condition the choice of a treatment with hadrontherapy are related mainly to the type of cancer and its natural history, i.e. its evolutionary behavior from the moment it occurs.
  • The histotype or the histology of the tumor (the type of healthy cell from which a tumor originates) is one of the most important factors that determines the decision for treatment with hadrons. There are certain types of cancers which have a particular capacity for rapid growth and microscopic spread to other organs which may not be visible in normal diagnostic tests. These types of tumors do not benefit from local treatments such as hadrontherapy, but need a systemic or pharmacological treatment that prevents the cancer’s spread.
  • Metastasis or the spread of the disease to other organs or tissues is often a criterion used to reject treatment with hadrons. When the disease has affected other organs far from its origin, it means that cancer cells have spread through the blood and/or lymphatic system. In these cases, local treatments such as radiotherapy or surgery must be substituted with systemic treatments that act in a widespread, i.e. diffuse, way.
  • Radiosensitive tumors. Tumors that require low doses of radiation to avoid their recurrence and to be “cured” do not need the relatively sophisticated treatment represented by hadrontherapy. In such cases X-ray radiation therapy has proven itself to be both effective and sufficient.

Why has my doctor never mentioned hadrontherapy to me?

It may be that your case is not suitable for hadrontherapy treatment. Furthermore, given its recent introduction to modern oncology some indications i.e. guidelines and protocols, for treatment with hadrontherapy are not yet consolidated.

What is the treatment? To what kind of procedures would I be subjected?

As is the case with conventional radiation therapy, hadrontherapy involves the administration of a radiation dose adapted to the type of cancer that it is meant to cure. The total dose established will be divided into a variable number of fractions that will be administered daily to the patient.
For a detailed description of the mode of treatment, see the section PATIENTS AREA - The clinical path

Are there some preliminary procedures?

Yes, as with conventional radiotherapy, hadrontherapy must carry out certain simulation and immobilization procedures prior to the providing treatment. See the section PATIENTS AREA - The clinical path

How long is the treatment?

The number of sessions of hadrontherapy depends on how many fractions the total prescribed dose has been divided into.
This number depends on many factors, related to the type, size and location of the tumor. In general there is one application a day for five days a week, for a total period from 2 to 8 weeks.

In terms of time, what is the duration of each treatment session?

Each session has a total duration of around 30 minutes. Most of this time is dedicated to the customized immobilization and the verification of positioning. The actual radiation lasts just a few minutes.

Is the treatment painful?

No. The treatment sessions are not in any way painful. During the penetration through the tissues, the radiation is absolutely painless to the patient.

Is it true that it doesn't cause any side effects?

Although the side effects are in most cases lower compared to X-rays, hadrontherapy is not completely free of toxicity.
The side effects depend on the dose and, above all, on the irradiated area. The anatomical district in which the tumor is present and the tissues involved, inevitably affect the presence or absence of any side effects.

Is it possible to stay near children during the treatment period?

There are no contraindications to stay with their own family.

How is possible to keep a very young child still?

For very young children if may be necessary to apply a short and light general anesthesia for a few minutes in order to ensure that the patient is still during the treatment.

How can I get more information?

For more information contact the CNAO Medical service:

Does the treatment with hadrontherapy CNAO have a cost?

CNAO treatments will be performed as in any agreed private facility operating within the National Health Service.
Patients can however access to CNAO in private modality.

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The National Centre for Oncological Hadrontherapy organizes guided tours for students from high schools, universities, research institutes and scientific organizations. Among CNAO missions, besides patients' cure, there is also education to research and innovation, as an effective tool to raise young persons' interest in their future professions.


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