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U-M study achieves reduced side effects in head and neck cancer treatment
Date:5/10/2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have applied advanced radiation techniques for head and neck cancer to avoid treating critical structures that affect swallowing and eating. A new study shows these principles and techniques treated the cancer effectively while greatly reducing long-term swallowing complications.

The researchers applied highly conformal, intensity-modulated radiation therapy and knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the structures involved to carefully craft a novel treatment plan that avoids certain muscles in the mouth and throat that are most involved in swallowing. Generally, head and neck tumors do not spread to these structures.

Of the 73 patients treated with this technique, all but four were eating a normal diet after their treatment ended and only one was dependent on a feeding tube. Typically up to 20 percent of head and neck cancer patients remain dependent on a feeding tube after finishing an intensive course of radiation treatment concurrent with chemotherapy.

Results of the study appear online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"More aggressive treatments for head and neck cancer have improved cancer control, but at the expense of quality of life. In this study, we did not compromise tumor control and we were able to improve this important quality of life measure," says study author Avraham Eisbruch, M.D., professor of radiation oncology at the U-M Medical School.

Scar tissue from radiation treatments to the head and neck often creates long-term problems with swallowing and eating solid foods, which does not improve over time. In this study, 29 percent of the patients required a temporary feeding tube during treatment because of pain while swallowing. But by one year after treatment, only one of the 73 patients on the study still required a feeding tube. Questionnaires to assess eating and swallowing function showed tha
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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