An eight year old boy who has been diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer is being treated with proton beam therapy (PBT) at The Christie hospital in Manchester.

McKenzie John, from Swansea began treatment at the end of May after being diagnosed with a nasopharyngeal tumour. About 250 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with the cancer, which affects the part of the throat connecting the mouth and the nose.

He first complained of a painful neck in November while showering. After multiple tests failed to reveal anything, it was an MRI scan in March that revealed the tumour.

McKenzie spent four days in an induced coma before being transferred to an oncology ward at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff, where he had emergency chemotherapy. He was then referred to the UK’s only NHS high energy proton beam therapy centre at The Christie in Manchester for further treatment.

McKenzie’s mum, Rhian, said: “He’s had a really tough time but McKenzie is in high spirits and we are pleased he is having proton beam therapy at The Christie.

“He’s always been a strong and healthy kid, and he never made a fuss or tried to skip school, so it was unusual for him to complain of this neck pain.

“Whenever he tried to tip his head back to wash his hair, he’d say it really hurt. Since then he has had chemotherapy and lost his hair but he’s a strong boy and we know he is in good hands.”

PBT is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely, reducing side-effects. It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to tissues that are still growing.

The Christie is the first NHS high-energy PBT centre in the UK as part of a £250m programme for a national PBT service funded by NHS England. A second PBT centre is also currently being built at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is due to open in 2020.


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