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Comparative Effectiveness and Safety of Radiotherapy Treatments for Head and Neck Cancer

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What To Discuss With Your Patients About Radiotherapy Treatments for Head and Neck Cancer

Radiation is associated with early and late toxicities, which can have a profound effect on a patient’s quality of life, and chemoradiation may be associated with enhancement of these toxicities (particularly mucositis and xerostomia). Therapy-related toxicities are particularly relevant in the treatment of head and neck cancer because of the close proximity of many important dose-limiting normal tissues. Treatment effects can affect basic functions like chewing, swallowing, and breathing, and the senses (e.g., taste, smell, and hearing), and can significantly alter appearance and voice. Most of the studies in this review were based on the results of patients treated at academic medical centers. However, an informal survey estimates that 30 to 60 percent of all patients with cancer in the United States are treated with IMRT. Whether similar results will be achieved as the technology disseminates to less-experienced settings has not been addressed in the comparative studies available for this review.