Given their location, tumours in the head and neck area are a serious disease. Every year, about 12,000 new cases are identified in the United Kingdom. The chances of a cure vary considerably according to the type and stage of the disease.
Comparison of PROTON and PHOTON treatment methods
The difference between proton and photon is seen in the graphical representation of irradiation plans.
Indications of proton therapy for head and neck tumours:
- Paranasal sinus cancer (primary or postoperative radiotherapy)
- Salivary gland cancer (primary or postoperative radiotherapy)
- Cancer of the nasopharynx (primary radiochemotherapy)
- Tonsillar cancer– particularly postoperative radiotherapy
- Benign ear, nose, throat tumours after exhausting other treatment options
Ear, nose and throat tumours are a common diagnosis treated at proton centers around the world. The reason is the complexity of the target volumes, which often do not allow the administration of curative doses while respecting the tolerated doses to critical organs.
Proton therapy preserves
Proton radiotherapy allows a significant dose reduction to the critical structures of the head and neck. This involves in particular a dose reduction to:
- salivary glands
- brain stem
- brain, in particular structures responsible for cognitive functions (hippocampus, periventricular area)
- the inner ear
- optical tracts
- midline structures – constrictors of the pharynx, esophagus, larynx
- chewing muscles and the temporomandibular joint
The level of dose reduction is highly individual. Generally, the structures that achieve maximum benefits from proton radiotherapy are those located at the greater distance from the target volume, and the contralateral structures.
Benefits of proton therapy
The comparison of proton radiotherapy and conventional photon radiotherapy gives a clear answer regarding the main advantages of modern treatment. Proton therapy, which allows a high radiation dose to be aimed precisely at the tumour with millimeter accuracy, improves the patient’s chances of a cure. It achieves higher efficacy, less damage to healthy tissues, and a reduced number of side effects, thus providing a higher chance of faster recovery and better quality of life after treatment.
Proton therapy protects healthy tissue and avoids unnecessary side effects
“Proton therapy significantly reduces the level of toxicity. It means that the number of hospitalisations and the use of a PEG tube after proton treatment is almost zero“ says Dr Kubes, Medical Director of the Prague Proton Therapy Center.
In the case of head and neck cancer treatment, proton therapy can reduce the dose to the spinal cord by up to 80%, and the dose to the swallowing tract by up to 50%. The dose to the brainstem and nerve structures of the brain can even be reduced to zero.
Experts from the proton community are of the opinion that tumours of the ENT region are those in which the benefits of proton radiotherapy are very high and that the number of patients will grow rapidly.