External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy is commonly used to treat oral, salivary gland, pharyngeal, laryngeal, nasal and paranasal sinus cancers. The treatment can be delivered in different ways, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT), and TomoTherapy. These techniques deliver radiation precisely to the affected area, which reduces treatment time and side effects.
Before radiation therapy starts you will be fitted for a plastic mask, called an immobilisation mask. Wearing the mask will help you keep still and ensure the radiation is targeted at the same area during each session. You can see and breathe through the mask, but it may feel strange and claustrophobic at first.
During treatment, you will lie on a table under a machine called a linear accelerator. You will wear the mask for 10–20 minutes during treatment (longer during the planning session). Treatment itself is painless and is usually given Monday–Friday as outpatient treatment for 6–7 weeks. You will be monitored by the radiation therapists throughout. Let them know if wearing the mask makes you feel uncomfortable, as this can be managed.
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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