Radiotherapy and Radiochemotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.  It is an important treatment for head and neck cancers.  Radiotherapy can be used on its own, used after surgery (adjuvant radiotherapy) or given in combination with chemotherapy (known as chemoradiotherapy).  Radiotherapy after surgery (adjuvant radiotherapy) is to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

Radiotherapy for head and neck cancer is usually given from outside the body, known as external-beam radiotherapy.  External-beam radiotherapy is given at the hospital radiotherapy department.  It is usually given Monday to Friday, with a rest at the weekend.

Radiotherapy Mask

The video will show you the process you will go through to have a radiotherapy mask made. If you have any questions/concerns about this, you can discuss them with the team at the Cancer Centre.

Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy – Chemoradiotherapy

Chemoradiotherapy is sometimes used in the treatment of advanced head and neck cancers. It may be used:

  • to treat cancers that cannot be removed with surgery
  • to treat cancers in harder-to-reach areas, such as the nasopharynx or throat
  • when surgery could cause severe changes to speech or swallowing.

Also, sometimes chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given together after surgery. This is called adjuvant chemoradiotherapy. If you need adjuvant treatment, your specialist team will decide whether radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy is best for your situation.

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide but they also affect normal cells. Chemotherapy is usually given as several sessions of treatment, with rest periods in between the sessions. Chemotherapy and the rest period make up a cycle of your treatment. Your cancer doctor will explain the number of cycles you need to treat the cancer.

Below are information leaflets that has been designed by the multidisciplinary team in the Cancer Centre. These will cover radiotherapy treatment and chemotherapy treatment, although you may not require both.

Resources

  • www.belfasttrust.hscni.net/services/cancer/treatments/radiotherapy
  • www.belfasttrust.hscni.net/services/cancer/treatments/chemotherapy