Better chemotherapy and aggressive chemoradiation have contributed to improved locoregional control and survival for head and neck cancer. But, said Barbara Murphy, MD, Director of the Pain and Symptom Management Program and Director of the Head and Neck Research Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN, Using multimodality treatment, especially chemoradiation, results in increased acute and late toxicity.
Explore this issue:August 2008
James A. Bonner, MD, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, agreed. Treatment is much more aggressive today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. But that intensity ramps up side effects.
Toxicity Is Inevitable
Radiation and chemotherapy share some common side effects, said Dr. Murphy, but they also vary by type of therapy. Almost no patient escapes toxicity, some of which is severe enough to necessitate dose reductions or cessation of treatment. The thing we have to be most concerned about is the risk-benefit ratio. Yes, we’re curing some patients, and we’ve had a lot of success in extending survival, but at what cost in permanent damage? she asked.