How does radiation therapy treat head and neck cancer?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Radiation therapy treats head and neck cancer by delivering radiation - usually high-energy x-rays - to the tumor. This radiation kills the cancer cells. Most commonly, the radiation is produced outside the body and then directed at the appropriate body region. This is called external-beam radiation therapy. All cells in the path of the beam are affected, and when normal cells are destroyed, side effects occur. Other techniques are sometimes used to reduce the amount of damage to normal cells, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (which uses computer modeling to focus the external beam more directly to the tumor) and internal radiation (in which radiation comes from radioactive materials implanted in or near the cancer).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.