Radiation therapy is treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Our radiation oncologists have years of experience safely and effectively treating breast cancer with radiation. Using the latest technology, we can precisely target tumors and minimize damage to nearby healthy tissue.
Types of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
Radiation therapy may provide effective treatment for the type of cancer you have. If so, your doctor will speak with you about the best options.
External radiation uses a machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC) to deliver radiation to an area where cancer cells are found or believed to be at high risk of coming back.
Approaches to radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
Depending upon your needs, your radiation oncologist may recommend:
- 3D (3-dimensional) conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
With this method, 3D images help the doctor better target the tumor. The images are created using a special machine — a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. The radiation beams can be aimed from many different angles to match the exact shape of the cancer.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
This method is similar to the first method, but the doctor can adjust how much radiation you get from each beam. In certain situations, this allows for better avoidance of nearby normal cells, and thus less potential side effects.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) or stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR)
This method works like the first 2 methods, and the total amount of radiation you get is similar. But with this method, the radiation is given in fewer but stronger doses.
Possible side effects of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
Everyone has a different response to radiation therapy. It may cause short-term side effects during treatment or long-term side effects after treatment ends.
The side effects of treatment depend on the type of radiation you receive, the dose, and your overall health. Common side effects that you may experience after radiation treatment include:
- Skin color changes, like a sunburn
- Skin irritation
- Sore throat, trouble swallowing, pain
- Dry mouth
- Loss of taste, smell
- Mouth sores
- Jaw stiffness
- Swelling in arms or legs, called lymphedema
No matter what you experience, your care team can help ease the side effects of treatment. At least once a week, your radiation oncology team will meet with you to discuss your progress and any side effects you may have.
Published April 2018
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