A Brief Recap
The last post detailed Head and Neck cancer, its types, symptoms and diagnosis. The following post will weigh on the treatments available for this kind of cancer. Outside references have been used for better explanation.
Head and Neck Cancer – Treatment
Broadly speaking, there are 3 possible recourses when considering treatment for head and neck cancer – surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. While each has its own set of advantages and fatalities, each case demands a different approach of treatment. So while for someone with laryngeal cancer, chemotherapy may be the best bet; a patient down with Oral cancer will see chemotherapy as a better option. It’s apples and oranges, actually. There are times when the same type of head and neck cancer may necessitate different lines of treatment. Here’s explaining each in detail:
Surgery is probably the most commonly used form of treatment to fight most head and neck cancers. The objective is to surgically remove the cancerous cells completely. Cancer Surgery is also effective when the tissues surrounding the carcinogens have to be removed to prevent further spread of cancer. This, however, can become tricky at times. If the cancer cell have collated near the larynx, there is a high probability that the patient damages the same and loses his vocal cords, thus rendering himself speechless. CO2 Laser surgery or Transoral laser microsurgery enables removal of tumors from the voice box without making any external incisions, thus minimizing damage.
Transoral Robotic Surgery
Transoral Robotic Surgery is specially beneficial for removal of tumors from throat, tonsils and base of the tongue. A guided endoscope provides a high resolution, 3D image of the tumor – thus allowing minimum incisions. Robotically guided, pre-programed “arms” make precise incisions and remove the tumor from surrounding tissues. TRS greatly reduces recuperation times and post surgery rehabilitation. Transoral Robotic Surgery is especially employed in cases of early detection of cancer.
Another relevation is the Cyberknife Radiation treatment, similar to TRS, that can even be used after conventional radiation procedures. The operation is minimally invasive and is over in less than an hour.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the most common form of treatment. There are different forms of radiation therapy, including 3D conformal radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy, and brachytherapy, which are commonly used in the treatments of cancers of the head and neck. Most patients with head and neck cancer who are treated in the United States and Europe are treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy using high energy photons.
Chemotherapy is not an actual treatment as such – in the sense that it is used more as a preventive measure post surgery to provide an inhospitable environment to carcinogens, thus mutilating their further growth. During chemotherapy, drugs such as Docetaxel and Amifostine are administered intravenously before the patient’s IMRT radiotherapy sessions. This is a rather lengthy process and spans several sessions for completion.
Coming Up in Part III (Final)
A thorough explanation all terms pertaining to head and neck cancer, treatment prognosis and residual effects.