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Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer can be located in the following areas:

  • Mouth or oral cavity
  • Salivary gland
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Nasal cavity or paranasal sinus

The majority of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers are men. In fact twice as many are men than women. This pattern is potentially reflected in some of the associated risks that can increase the chance of head and neck cancer being developed. These include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • History of Plummer-Vinson syndrome
  • Exposure to human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • History of Epstein-Barr virus

Symptoms such as pain and bleeding on the head or neck should prompt a consultation with your doctor for further investigation.

Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck cancer

Alongside surgery, radiation therapy is one of the principal treatment options used for head and neck cancer patients, and in some cases patients will need both. Chemotherapy is often added to increase the effect of radiation therapy in extensive tumours.

The treatment of head and neck cancer with radiation therapy is unique for the reason that it routinely requires the delivery of different prescriptions of radiation to specific area of the head and neck region. This is to ensure adequate dose to the primary tumour area.

This approach of 'phase' treatments is clinically achieved and efficiently managed by the use of intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and volumetric arc therapy (VMAT). Both achieve the variance in prescribed radiation dose adjacent to radiation sensitive structures such as the parotid, spinal cord and salivary glands.

Targeting Cancer - following Julie McCrossin's head and neck cancer treatment journey 

Thankyou to the Faculty of Radiation Oncology, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists who have produced these videos.

Julie McCrossin has become an Ambassador for Targeting Cancer. She had oropharyngeal cancer treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy over 2 years ago. She has recovered her speech and swallowing, and is back to her usual busy life. Watch the videos below to follow Julie’s treatment journey, from diagnosis and treatment to embracing the future.


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