Other Treatment Options
Radiotherapy works through radiation targeted at cancer cells, e.g. using highly energetic x-ray radiation. The fact that tumour tissue is more sensitive to radiation than the surrounding healthy tissue speaks for radiation therapy. Healthy cells should be affected as little as possible.
Radiation takes between three and seven weeks, depending on the type and size of the cancer. The treatment is usually carried out from Monday till Friday, with a relaxation break at the weekend. Every treatment takes only a few minutes.
Side effects occur depending on the dose, radiation depth and frequency of treatment. Erythemas and inflammations of the mucous membranes in the mouth and pharynx areas as well as in the oesophagus may occur when the head and neck area is exposed to radiation. Hair loss frequently occurs when exposing the head to radiation. Radiation in the stomach area may lead to a feeling of fullness, nausea, or diarrhoea.
With modern radiation therapy methods – and depending on the state of the disease in combination with surgical and chemotherapy – nowadays numerous tumour diseases are curable, even in progressed states.
The intention of the surgeon is to remove the tumour and surrounding tissue probably containing cancer cells as well. It is also possible that the treating medical suggests removing lymph nodes that may still contain cancer cells following radiotherapy.
Depending on the kind of cancer, a surgical treatment may be very extensive and sometimes may even require grafting skin. After comprehensive surgical treatment of head and neck carcinoma it may for example be possible that prostheses (artificial facial parts) are utilised.
In chemotherapy, the treating medical trusts in the effect of so-called cytostatics. Chemotherapy may be taken in the form of tablets or injections. The substances applied in chemotherapy should take effect specifically on the targeted cancer cells in order to kill them of inhibit their growth.
Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the kind of therapy and individual predispositions. Individual side effects such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, inflammation of the mucous membranes, and hemogram alterations occur independently.
In case a tumour can not be cured or treated solely with radiation therapy, chemotherapy is applied to downsize the tumour prior to radiotherapy or to avoid a surgical operation.