Interactive: How Proton Therapy Works

A step-by-step illustration of the burgeoning technology for cancer treatment.

Thursday, August 28, 2014
HOW IT WORKS
PROTON THERAPY starts with accelerators housed in concrete bunkers several stories tall and large enough to hold a cyclotron. Giant magnets speed subatomic particles toward the speed of light.

Atom Smashers for Tumors

1. The proton beam begins inside a cyclotron, where enormously powerful magnets strip protons from the hydrogen atoms in water molecules.
2. Radiofrequency power accelerates protons in a circular path inside the cyclotron, a machine just slightly bigger than an SUV. The protons accelerate toward the speed of light, at 100,000 miles per second.
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