Head and neck cancers are frequently located close to critical structures such as the optic nerves, eyes, brain stem, and spinal cord. The advantage with protons in treating these cancers is that radiation oncologists can deliver high radiation doses to the cancer target while sparing sensitive structures. As a result, proton therapy may reduce the likelihood of side effects from radiation treatment, which can include blindness, hearing deterioration, and dry mouth.
In some cases, such as patients with advanced cancers who face a high risk of relapse, proton therapy may make dose escalation strategies possible by limiting the radiation delivered to the surrounding normal tissues. Proton therapy may also allow patients to better tolerate systemic therapies like chemotherapy when combined with radiation therapy.
Head and neck tumors that can be treated with proton therapy include:
- Nasal cavity
- Paranasal sinuses
- Oropharynx, including the tonsils, base of tongue, and soft palate
- Oral cavity tumors including the anterior tongue and floor of mouth
- Tumors of the cranial nerves
- Orbital tumors, including optic nerve sheath meningioma, optic nerve glioma, and lacrimal gland/lacrimal sac tumors
Treatment Innovations and Expertise
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s team of head and neck cancer care specialists are highly regarded in the Pacific Northwest. Our patients have access to treatment innovations at the Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Center at University of Washington Medical Center as well as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. We treat hundreds of new patients each year, including performing complex surgical reconstructions. Learn more about treatment for head and neck cancers at SCCA.