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Pharyngeal and Laryngeal Cancer

Pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers (PLC) are malignant tumors originating in the oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. Nasopharyngeal cancer has different biological characteristics, and the treatment consideration is completely different, so it is usually discussed separately. PLC is a common cancer in Taiwan, found predominantly among males. The risk factors of PLC include smoking, drinking alcohol, and chewing betel quid. Primary treatment includes either surgery or radiotherapy. Both have their own advantages and should be selected based on disease status and overall condition of the patient. In general, advantages of radiotherapy include the preservation of speech and swallowing functions after treatment.

Radiotherapy for Pharyngeal and Laryngeal Cancer

The composition of the target area for radiotherapy of PLC is very complicated, including many critical organs such as eyes, ears, spinal cord, brain stem, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and parotid glands. Radiation injuries are inevitable during the course of radiotherapy. Therefore, PLC treatment requires the best and most innovating radiation techniques. Currently, intensity modulated radiotherapy (or volumetric modulated arc therapy) is the basic requirement to deliver radiation. Other techniques, such as image-guided radiotherapy and adaptive radiotherapy can also help correct errors that occur during treatment, and reduce the risk of associated complications. After the maturation of the intensity modulation technique of proton therapy, proton therapy can then be used for specific PLC patients. Compared to photon therapy, proton therapy may further reduce the risk of complications and improve quality of life both during and after radiotherapy.

Most radiotherapy techniques require the highest level of quality control in order to avoid errors. Therefore, entering a clinical study for treatment of PLC may be a better choice. A clinical study does not consist of using a treatment method that has not been used before, and testing it on patients with no knowledge of it. Instead, it is a standardized treatment that is carried out with strict rules and careful monitoring. The best results can be achieved when the quality of treatment is secure.

Process of Radiotherapy Therapy For Pharyngeal and Laryngeal Cancer

Radiotherapy for PLCtakes about 15-30 minutes a day, five days a week, for 7-8 weeks. The severity of side effects, including dermatitis, hair loss, oral mucositis, pharyngitis, pain during swallowing, change in taste, and dry mouth will vary among individuals. The feasible radiotherapy techniques for each patient will vary, depending on disease status and overall condition of the patient. For indications of radiotherapy or other questions, we welcome you to discuss these with the medical staff in our department.

Article author: Dr. Kang-Hsing Fan