Targeting Cancers of the Head and Neck at Scripps
Your head and neck are home to some of your body’s most intricate and sensitive organs and tissues, and tumors in these areas must be treated with expert precision and the utmost care. These tumors typically require a high dose of radiation, but because they are tucked away among vital, highly sensitive structures — such as the brain, optic nerve, thyroid, salivary glands and jawbone — accurately targeting them is extremely important for several reasons:
- Radiation to healthy tissues around cancer tumors in the head or neck can affect your sight, hearing, taste, swallowing, ability to eat, appearance and even brain function — possibly permanently.
- These tumors are located next to vital structures; unchecked tumor growth can lead to devastating disabilities and death.
- If cancer comes back after radiation therapy, a second round of treatment with X-ray radiation may be too risky.
From diagnosis and treatment to navigation and support, Scripps offers comprehensive cancer care. Learn how proton therapy further complements these services.
The benefits of proton therapy for head and neck cancers
Proton therapy is an extremely precise form of radiation treatment that enables us to target cancerous cells within the intricate areas of the head and neck. Because protons deposit their maximum energy directly in the tumor, exposure to your fragile healthy tissues is greatly reduced.
- Advanced proton therapy allows doctors to more selectively place high-dose radiation on your tumor, while simultaneously reducing the dose to your surrounding critical organs. This has been shown to deliver higher cure rates than X-ray radiation treatment even with some of the most difficult tumor types.
- Many studies have shown an increased rate of secondary cancer in surrounding areas in patients who receive X-ray radiation therapy. Because proton therapy lowers the dose to normal tissue, studies predict a lower risk of secondary cancer with this treatment.
- Scripps Proton Therapy Center’s precisely targeted pencil-beam scanning technique (IMPT) further reduces the amount of radiation to surrounding tissues, even when compared with conventional passively scattered protons. The radiation dose from pencil-beam scanning that extends beyond the target has been shown to be substantially less than passively scattered protons and intensity-modulated X-ray therapy (IMRT).
- Because proton therapy can better concentrate its radiation dose to the target and limit it elsewhere, it is ideally suited for treating recurrent tumors in areas that have previously been treated with radiation therapy. Treating previously radiated areas is challenging and very risky with any radiation therapy. Tissues around the recurrent tumor don’t “forget” the previous radiation dose, and any added dose continues to increase the risk of normal tissue injury. By reducing the radiation dose given to these previously treated tissues, protons can help to reduce, but not eliminate, some of the risks associated with re-irradiation.
Types of head and neck cancer treated
We treat the following types of head and neck cancer with proton therapy:
- Base of skull cancers
- Larynx cancer (voice box)
- Lip cancer and oral (mouth) cancers
- Salivary gland cancer
- Sinus cancer
- Throat cancer (nasopharyngeal/ hypopharyngeal/oropharyngeal)
- Thyroid cancer
- Tongue cancer
- Tonsil cancer
When you are living with cancer, you may need more than expert medical treatment. Our staff is here to help you and your family every step of the way, from scheduling appointments and answering questions to finding support services and other resources.
We offer a wide variety of services to help speed your recovery from head and neck cancer treatment, including:
- Voice therapy
- Swallowing therapy
- Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer
- Home Health Care services
- Nutrition services through Scripps Center for Weight Management and Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine
- Psychological and emotional care
- Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine Cancer Care
Proton therapy is a highly precise form of external radiation therapy that can be used for tumor control in select patients. All cancer treatments have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to discuss these, as well as your treatment options, with your cancer specialist.
Proton therapy for head and neck cancer research
- Projected second tumor risk and dose to neurocognitive structures after proton versus photon radiotherapy for benign meningioma
- Multifield optimization intensity modulated proton therapy for head and neck tumors: A translation into practice
- MD Anderson: New Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy Reduces The Use of Feeding Tubes in OPC Patients
- Assessment of radiation-induced second cancer risks in proton therapy and IMRT for organs inside the primary radiation field.
- Potential improvement of three dimension treatment planning and proton therapy in the outcome of maxillary sinus cancer
- Proton radiation therapy for primary sphenoid sinus malignancies: treatment outcome and prognostic factors
- Proton radiotherapy for orbital rhabdomyosarcoma: clinical outcome and a dosimetric comparison with photons
- Proton therapy for head and neck cancer: rationale, potential indications, practical considerations, and current clinical evidence
- Re-irradiation with scanned charged particle beams in recurrent tumours of the head and neck: acute toxicity and feasibility
- Spot-scanning beam proton therapy vs intensity-modulated radiation therapy for ipsilateral head and neck malignancies: a treatment planning comparison.
- The potential benefit of radiotherapy with protons in head and neck cancer with respect to normal tissue sparing: a systematic review of literature
- The potential of intensity-modulated proton radiotherapy to reduce swallowing dysfunction in the treatment of head and neck cancer: A planning comparative study
- Treatment planning comparison of conventional, 3D conformal, and intensity-modulated photon (IMRT) and proton therapy for paranasal sinus carcinoma.