Radiation Therapy for Head & Neck Cancer
Radiation therapy uses high-powered X-rays, seeds or radioactive material to shrink or destroy your tumor.
- Image Guidance Makes Targeting Tumors More Precise
At Scott & White, we use Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) during the course of our radiation oncology treatments in areas of the body that are prone to movement. IGRT is the use of frequent imaging during your radiation therapy treatment to ensure absolute accuracy of treatment.
Benefits of IGRT include:
- Patient and tumor motion tracked with the use of image guidance
- Radiation beam adjusted in response to current tumor image to maintain accuracy and reduce likelihood of harming nearby tissue
- Helps target tumors to sub-millimeter accuracy
- Features computerized robotic delivery and stereotactic localization imaging
- Requires an imaging series, which is transferred to computer, before treatment begins
- Used in conjunction with IMRT, 3DCRT and stereotactic radiotherapy
For more information, see Image-Guided Radiation Therapy at RadiologyInfo.org.
As technology has gotten better, we've found that we can deliver much higher doses of radiation, where we’re killing a lot more cancer, or cancer cells, than we were before. We can deliver the radiation to the tumor and spare the normal tissues around the tumor, which is allowing us to have much better outcomes and much higher tumor control.
Scott & White’s Approach
Scott & White’s mission to provide personalized, comprehensive care is the foundation for our radiation therapy program.
Our approach at Scott & White is in individualizing therapy. “We calculate your dosage cloud so that it will look exactly like the shape of your tumor,” says Nitika Thawani, MD, Radiation Oncology.
Our radiation oncologists take meticulous care in determining the precise radiation therapy protocol for you. Several factors impact their decision, including the type, location and stage of your specific tumor and your overall medical condition.
At Scott & White, treatment goals for head and neck cancer include:
- Removing as much of your cancer as possible
- Preserving organ function
- Preventing local symptoms and recurrence
When planning your treatment for cancers of the mouth and throat, your physician team will consider the treatment’s impact on your speech and ability to communicate.
Every effort is made to preserve your ability to speak and nourish yourself in a normal manner as much as possible.
Progressive Treatment Options Help Preserve Your Head & Neck Structures
Concurrent Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy
Our philosophy at Scott & White is to preserve as much of your own organs as possible.
To do so, your physician team may recommend the use of concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy rather than surgery so that you may have the use of your organs and other structures after the cure of your cancer.
We’re one of the few cancer centers in the nation to offer you the use of concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a substitute to surgery
Re-Radiation of Original Site
Additionally, at Scott & White in some cases we offer re-radiation of your original cancer site in order to improve your cure rate and quality of life. Scott & White is one of a select group of cancer centers in the nation to provide this treatment option.
We are trying to preserve your own organs by using a concurrent chemotherapy and radiation approach, so that you have functional organs left after the cure of your cancer.
Your physician team may recommend radiotherapy with the Novalis TX Radiosurgery Platform as salvage treatment for your:
- Lip, oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer
- Nasopharyngeal cancer
The Novalis TX Radiosurgery Platform, a noninvasive radiation therapy treatment option, offers precise, rapid treatments with surgical accuracy without the risks and side effects of surgery.
Scott & White is among the few cancer treatment centers in the United States to provide this advanced treatment option for patients whose head and neck has returned.
For patients who need salvage treatment — salvage, meaning once they’ve been treated, and they failed and the cancer came back — we can retreat them using stereotactic radiotherapy.
How Radiation Therapy Is Used to Treat Head & Neck Cancer
Your physician may recommend radiation therapy for your head and neck cancer. The type of radiation therapy you receive is dependent on the type of head and neck cancer you have.
Lip, Oral Cavity & Oropharyngeal
Interstitial internal-beam radiation therapy is often the definitive treatment for early-stage lip, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers.
Additionally, if your lip, tongue, mouth, gum, throat or other oral cancer has returned after original treatment, we offer salvage treatment.
Your physician team may recommend retreating you with:
- Interstitial Implants (Brachytherapy)
- Fractionated Stereotactic Radiotherapy
- A combination of brachytherapy and stereotactic radiotherapy
If your cancer has spread (metastasized) throughout your body, your physician team may recommend external-beam radiation therapy.
Laryngeal & Hypopharyngeal
For cancers of the larynx and hypopharynx, your physician team may recommend external-beam radiation therapy:
Nasal Cavity & Paranasal Sinus
Your physician team may recommend Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy for your cancers of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinus.
For cancers of the nasopharynx, your physician team may recommend:
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
- Intracavitary Implants (Brachytherapy)
- Fractionated Stereotactic Radiotherapy
In some cases, your physician team may recommend a combination of these radiation therapies.
For salivary gland cancer, your physician team may recommend external-beam radiation therapy:
Your physician team may recommend Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy for unknown primary cancers of the head and neck.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
Each radiation therapy approach is different and each person’s reaction to it can vary. At Scott & White, your radiation oncologist will see you through treatment and help you manage any side effects.