Radiation Therapy of Head and Neck Tumours


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External beam radiation therapy is a treatment modality for a group of malignancies clustered under one diagnostic heading as head and neck tumours. Radiation therapy may be administered post-surgery. However, depending on the nature of the tumors, these tumors may be treated using the external beam without surgery. Furthermore, external radiation beam therapy may also be used in combination with chemotherapy. However, it has since been established that the external beam radiation therapy technique leads to salivary gland injury resulting in long term health complications for people previously treated for head and neck tumors.

Treatment of head and neck tumors with external radiation beam may involve use of any of the following techniques; intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), two-dimensional radiation therapy (2D-RT) and three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT). The external beam radiation therapy relies on the use of ionizing radiation to destroy the DNA of the malignant cells leading to their death. Treatment may last between three and seven weeks. However, this depends on tumor size and the purpose of treatment whether it is curative or palliative. The head and neck tumors maybe treated with doses of between 50 Gy and 70 Gy. A patient would generally receive 2 Gy a day in a week of five consecutive days excluding weekends.

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