Proton beam therapy (PBT) uses a high-energy beam of particles to target cancer cells and has been shown to reduce the side-effects of alternative treatments, which include hearing loss, loss of mental capacity and secondary cancers.
The therapy is more effective because it targets tumours directly, meaning it has less chance of damaging critical tissues. Three sites: the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, University College London Hospitals and University Hospitals Birmingham have been identified as potential providers of the service.
While PBT is currently only available in Switzerland and the US, Mr Lansley announced recently (December 13th) to the Britain Against Cancer Conference that 1,500 patients a year will be able to take advantage of the UK-based service. As well as improving provision of treatment for cancer patients, the move is expected to reduce the number of people, particularly children, who need to use hearing aids as a result of the cancer treatment.
The Health Secretary said the UK's cancer survival rates have lagged behind those of other comparable countries for too long. "This investment will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the fight against cancer," he added. "This is great news for patients, as well as for our scientists and academics who are always looking to push those boundaries further."
The news also comes as the first annual report of Improving Outcomes - A Strategy for Cancer was published, which charts the NHS' progress in its target of saving 5,000 more lives from cancer by 2014/15.
If you think you may have a hearing loss why not make an appointment to have a hearing test.