Head and neck radiotherapy: Complications

CPD hours:

Head and neck cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Australia.

Advances in interventions including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy have led to improved tumour-related outcomes, 5-year relative survival rates, and reduced mortality.

68% of patients with head and neck cancer in Australia are expected to live beyond 5 years.

Although advanced therapies are highly effective, they are also associated with increased toxicity, and present a challenge for the short- and long-term management of adverse outcomes.

This module will outline the physiological changes associated with head and neck cancer and associated radiotherapy therapy treatment, and highlight particular organs at risk.

It will offer insight into the significant adverse effects associated with chemoradiotherapy and outline some suggested prevention and management techniques that are used by members of the multidisciplinary team in order to improve outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer.

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At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Explain the impact of cancer and radiotherapy on the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
  • Describe the serial and parallel organs at risk with radiotherapy of the head and neck.
  • Understand the adverse effects of head and neck radiotherapy including erythema, dysphagia, and xerostomia.
  • Highlight the role of the radiotherapist and the multidisciplinary team in the prevention and management of adverse effects in order to improve quality of life for head and neck cancer patients.

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • This is learning objective 1.
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