Radiation therapy is a widely used form of treatment for head and neck cancer that can be administered on its own or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Most often, early-stage head and neck cancers that have not spread beyond the site of origin are treated with either radiation therapy or surgery. More extensive cancers may be addressed with a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Sometimes, surgery is followed by radiation therapy to target residual cancer cells and reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
The most common types of radiation therapy used to treat head and neck cancer are:
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) – This method delivers high-energy X-rays or proton beams to a tumor site from a machine called a linear accelerator (no radioactive sources are placed inside a patient’s body). These powerful rays have the ability to destroy cancer cells, and a radiation oncologist can carefully plan treatment to minimize exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – This advanced, highly refined approach utilizes computer-controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a tumor. By carefully modulating the intensity of the beam, a radiation oncologist can focus a high dose of radiation where it is needed and avoid exposure to healthy tissue by conforming the treatment to the three-dimensional shape of a tumor.
Radioactive iodine treatment – This treatment is an option for some patients with thyroid cancer. Because the thyroid gland absorbs nearly all of the iodine in the body, radioactive iodine administered in liquid or capsule form will accumulate in the gland and can destroy cancer cells with little effect on the rest of a patient’s body.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, the surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and other professionals in our Head and Neck Cancer Program have world-class expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of head and neck cancer. Our multispecialty team takes a unique approach that is collaborative, evidence-based, compassionate and comprehensive. And, while Moffitt’s patients have access to the latest and best radiation therapy equipment, the factor that truly sets us apart from other providers is the extensive experience of our team. Our radiation oncologists work closely with each patient, as well as the other members of our tumor board, to ensure that each radiation treatment plan provides the maximum benefits for the patient’s unique needs.
If you’d like to learn more about head and neck cancer radiation therapy, the experts at Moffitt can explain your options and help you make informed choices. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We see patients with and without referrals.