Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers most often appear in the squamous cells, which line areas like the throat, mouth, and nose, sometimes causing face and neck disfiguration and impacting speech, sight and sense of smell.


Proton Therapy Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers most often appear in the squamous cells, which line areas like the throat, mouth, and nose, sometimes causing face and neck disfiguration and impacting speech, sight and sense of smell.

The greatest risk factors for these cancers include alcohol and tobacco use, including the use of smokeless tobacco. Another risk factor is HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and people over the age of 40 are at higher risk. Poor nutrition, inadequate oral and dental hygiene, or a weakened immune system can also increase a person’s risk.

Just as with brain and eye cancers, vulnerable, critical tissues and structures usually surround tumors that form in these regions, including the spinal cord and jawbone. As a result, they are prone to inadvertently receive unnecessary radiation exposure when traditional radiation treatment methods are used.

Symptoms

For more information for patients considering proton therapy for head and neck cancer treatment.
Symptoms of head and neck cancers will vary depending on the affected area. Symptoms include:

  • A lump or sore in the throat
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Change or hoarseness in voice
  • Recurring pain in the neck or throat
  • Frequent headaches
  • Blocked sinuses that do not clear
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Swelling under the chin and around the jawbone
  • A white or red patch on gums, tongue or lining of the mouth

Diagnosis

A physician may recommend a physical examination in which the oral and nasal cavities, neck, throat, and tongue are inspected using a small mirror and lights and the neck, lips, gums and cheeks are inspected for the presence of lumps.
A biopsy, in which tissue is removed and checked for cancer, may be used as well, along with x-rays, CT scans or magnetic resonance imagining (MRI).

For more information for patients considering proton therapy for head and neck cancer treatment.

Treatment

Proton therapy allows specialists to target and control the areas in which protons are emitted into the body and release their energy, increasing the radiation’s effectiveness while decreasing damage to the structures surrounding the treatment area. Patients will be at a lower risk for many negative side effects, including dry mouth and bone injury. Depending on the size of the tumor, a combination of proton and surgical therapy methods may be used for treatment.

More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with head and neck cancer. When treating head and neck tumors it’s critical to protect the delicate organs that surround the tumor. Proton therapy can substantially reduce damage to eyes, optic nerves, salivary glands, and other tissue and organs near head and neck tumors.7-9 Proton therapy also reduces the likelihood of side effects such as blindness, hearing deterioration, and dry mouth.8 Secondary malignancies are also less likely with proton therapy.7
Some head and neck cancer sites which benefit most from proton therapy include:7,8,14

  • Nasopharynx (back of the nose where it meets the throat)
  • Nasal (nose) cavity
  • Paranasal sinuses (sinuses in the face)
  • Oropharynx (area of the throat at the back of the mouth), including tonsils and base of tongue

7 Steneker M, Lomax A, Schneider U. Intensity modulated photon and proton therapy for the treatment of head and neck tumors. Radiother Oncol. 2006;80(2):263-267.8 Taheri-Kadkhoda Z, Björk-Eriksson T, Nill S, et al. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy of nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a comparative treatment planning study of photons and protons. Radiat Oncol. 2008;3:4.9 Yeung D, Malyapa RS, Mendenhall WM, et al. Dosimetric comparison of IMRT and proton therapy for head and neck tumors. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2006;66(3):S412.14 Chan AW, Pommier P, Deschler DG, et al. Change in patterns of relapse after combined proton and photon irradiation for locally advanced paranasal sinus cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2004;60(1):320

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