During April, which is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, we raised awareness nationally of the various forms of head and neck tumors and their treatments. To continue the important conversation about head and neck cancer, we spoke with radiation oncologist Dr. Arpit Chhabra, New York Proton Center’s Director of Education and a specialist in head and neck cancers, about the benefits of treating these tumors with proton therapy.
Tumors of the head and neck can take a variety of forms and can be cancerous or non-cancerous. They can arise in various areas including, but not limited to, the oropharynx, oral cavity, larynx, throat, nasopharynx, nasal cavity, sinuses, salivary glands, and base of the skull.
Proton therapy can be an optimal treatment for many patients with these tumors. Dr. Chhabra explains that this is because proton therapy can deliver more radiation to the tumor and less radiation to the surrounding healthy organs, allowing for fewer side effects and better quality of life during and after treatment. Vital organs and structures, including, the brain, eyes, hearing apparatus, salivary glands, mouth, swallowing muscles, jaw, and spinal cord, are much less likely to receive unnecessary radiation.
Fewer side effects mean patients are better able to maintain their normal daily activities and are less likely to experience significant disruptions to their quality of life. This can help to reduce the emotional and psychological impact of cancer treatment and improve overall well-being. And if side effects do occur, our team is available to help manage them. Learn more from Allen, one of our patients who benefited from proton therapy’s exceptional precision and the support he received from his proton therapy team.
Another advantage of proton therapy is that it is often the best form of radiation to retreat a tumor that has recurred. This is because of proton therapy’s precision and ability to significantly reduce the overlap of excess radiation to nearby normal tissues and organs. Reducing the cumulative dose to the normal tissues may reduce the risk of side effects, allowing for more radiation dose to be focused to the tumor, leading to a better chance of a cure.
At the New York Proton Center, we also lead the industry in proton therapy research, with more than 25 open clinical trials, including six for head and neck cancers. In 2022, over 97% of our patients were enrolled on a clinical trial.
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with a new or recurrent head and neck tumor, we encourage you to ask about proton therapy as a treatment option. Our team is here to help you navigate your treatment journey, every step of the way.