About Radiation Therapy for Throat Cancer
Radiation therapy is treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy cancer cells.
This type of therapy is effective for oropharyngeal cancer, which is cancer of the throat near the mouth. Our radiation cancer doctors have years of experience safely treating this cancer.
Using the latest methods, we can target cancer precisely. This helps to reduce damage to nearby healthy areas of your body.
Types of radiation therapy
Radiation therapy may be effective for the type of cancer you have. If so, your doctor will talk to you about the best options.
External therapy uses a machine called a linear accelerator to deliver radiation. It targets the area where cancer cells are found. It can also target areas where cancer cells are likely to come back.
Approaches to radiation therapy
Depending upon your needs, your radiation cancer doctor may recommend:
- 3D (3-dimensional) conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
This method makes 3D images to help the doctor target the cancer. The images are created with a special machine.
The machine may use computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The radiation beams can be aimed from different angles to match the exact shape of the cancer.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
This method lets the doctor adjust how much radiation you get from each beam.
This allows the doctor to better avoid nearby normal cells. That may lessen side effects.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
or stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR)
This method works like the first 2 methods. The total amount of radiation you get is similar. But the radiation is given in fewer but stronger doses.
Possible side effects
Everyone has a different response to radiation therapy. It may cause short-term side effects during treatment. It can also cause long-term side effects after treatment ends.
The side effects depend on the type of radiation you receive. They can also depend on the dose and your overall health.
Common side effects include:
- Feeling tired
- Skin color changes
- Skin irritation
- Sore throat, trouble swallowing, pain
- Dry mouth
- Loss of taste, smell
- Mouth sores
- Stiff jaw
- Swelling in arms or legs, called lymphedema
Your care team can help you ease the side effects of treatment.
At least once a week, your radiation cancer care team will meet with you. You can talk over your progress and any side effects.
Current as of: 6/2019
Stanford Health Education, 2019