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

t on average, patients had only slight difficulties up to two years after treatment.

No patients had a spread of their cancer to the untreated structures and few cancers recurred overall, suggesting it was not harmful to avoid treating these areas. After three years, 88 percent of patients were cancer-free.

Eisbruch and his colleagues were also leaders in pioneering head and neck radiation treatments that avoid the salivary glands, reducing significantly the severity of permanently dry mouth, which has previously been a major complication of radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

"We seek a cure for these patients, but we also seek quality of life. As cure rates have improved in recent years, quality of life issues become more and more important. Our next steps are to identify which patients are likely to do well with treatment and reduce the intensity of treatment to limit the burden of these side effects," Eisbruch says.

Methodology: The study looked at 73 patients with stage III or stage IV oropharyngeal cancer, including cancer of the tonsils or the base of the tongue. Patients were treated with seven weeks of daily intensity-modulated radiation therapy to the neck, designed to avoid the swallowing structures. Chemotherapy was administered weekly during this time. Patients were assessed with videofluoroscopy, an imaging procedure, periodically during treatment and up to two years after to assess swallowing. Swallowing was also assessed by doctors and through patient report using standard questionnaires.

Head and neck cancer statistics: 35,720 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year and 7,600 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society


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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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