Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer
Facts About Head & Neck Cancer
Types of Head and Neck Cancers
Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer
External Beam Radiation Therapy


To learn more about head and neck cancer, you can go to the links we provide to other helpful websites.


This year, about 62,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and thyroid.

arrow More than 25 percent of oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke or have other risk factors.
arrow Risks for developing head and neck cancers include smoking or smokeless tobacco, alcohol use, and exposure to viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
arrow Rates of head and neck cancer are nearly twice as high in men and are greatest in men over age 50.
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Head and neck cancers arise from the cells that make up the face, mouth and throat. Because cancers in different locations behave differently, treatment depends on the cancer type and extent. Some common locations include:

arrow Nasal cavity/paranasal sinuses.
arrow Nasopharynx.
arrow Oral cavity (lips, gums, floor of mouth, oral tongue, cheek mucosa, hard palate, retromolar trigone).
arrow Oropharynx (base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate, oropharyngeal wall).
arrow Larynx (vocal cords and supraglottic larynx).
arrow Hypopharynx (pyriform sinuses, post-cricoid area, posterior pharyngeal wall).
arrow Salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, sublingual and minor salivary glands).
arrow Thyroid.
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Treatment for head and neck cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, the size and stage, its location, and your overall health.

arrow Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the mainstays of treating head and neck cancer.
arrow For many head and neck cancers, combining two or three types of treatments may be most effective. That's why it is important to talk with several cancer specialists about your care, including a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist.
arrow An important concept in treating head and neck cancer is organ preservation. Rather than relying on major surgery, an organ preservation approach first uses radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. This allows for a less extensive surgery and may even allow some patients to avoid surgery altogether.
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External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the cancer.

arrow Painless radiation therapy treatments are delivered in a series of daily sessions. Radiation treatments take only a few minutes, but each session takes about half an hour to get checked in, change clothes, get into position and receive the radiation. For some conditions, radiation is given twice a day, with a four to six hour gap between treatments.
arrow Treatments are usually scheduled Monday through Friday, for five to eight weeks. However, your doctor may schedule your treatments more or less often depending on your cancer.
arrow To help you keep still during treatment, your doctor may use a plastic head or shoulder mask. These devices are specially fitted for you and are painless to use.
arrow 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver precise doses of radiation to the affected area. Tailoring each of the radiation beams to accurately focus on the patient's tumor allows coverage of the cancer while at the same time keeping radiation away from nearby healthy tissue.
arrow Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a form of 3D-CRT that further modifies the radiation by varying the intensity of each radiation beam. This technique allows a precise adjustment of radiation doses to the tissue within the target area. IMRT may allow doctors to direct a higher radiation dose to the affected area and keep more radiation away from nearby healthy tissue.
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