Radiation therapy and happiness

Posted on Mar 23, 2012

Does the type of radiation used to treat cancer affect a person's quality of life years down the road? New research suggests that indeed it does.

This research, presented at the Head and Neck Cancer Symposium, supports the findings of several other studies that favor the use of Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) because it has fewer side effects.

Ask your oncologist about IMRT. Scientists from the University of California Davis followed 155 head and neck cancer patients for two years after their cancer therapy.

One year after treatment, 51 percent of IMRT patients said their quality of life was "very good" or "outstanding," as did 41 percent of non-IMRT patients.

At the two year mark, the difference widened to 73 percent against 49 percent.

While the study was evaluating quality of life alone, the study appears to be a step in the right direction as far assessing the patient's evaluation of a treatment, a frequently overlooked variable.

“Hopefully, these results provide some reassurance to patients that radiation therapy using contemporary techniques in the hands of expert specialists can maintain their function and long-term quality of life, while still curing them of cancer,” said Allen Chen, M.D., lead author of the study.

“Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer is without a doubt an intensive process and very intimidating to most patients. Folks think about the prospects of six to seven weeks of radiation and naturally expect the worst. It is nice to know that technological advances have made the treatment much more tolerable than in the past,” Dr. Chen added.

Seventy one patients treated with conventional therapy were compared to 84 given IMRT therapy in the study. After analysis of radiation target, intent, dose, staging, chemotherapy use and surgical history, the only variable associated with increased quality of life was the use of IMRT. The statistical conclusion was that patients rated their quality of life as significantly higher if they had been treated with IMRT in comparison to patients treated with conventional three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D CRT) radiation.

The research was published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology *Biology* Physics.

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