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Head and Neck Cancer Radiation Oncology Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or concentrated radioactive materials to safely kill cancer cells. It's a painless treatment option for head and neck cancer.

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, radiation oncologists work closely with their colleagues in surgical and medical oncology. As a team, these experts will tailor a treatment plan for your type and stage of head or neck cancer.

Your care team often pairs radiation with medical oncology. We call this joint treatment chemoradiation or chemoradiotherapy.

When surgery isn't an option, radiation therapy can help:

  • Shrink a head or neck tumor.
  • Stop head and neck cancer from spreading.

It can also help manage pain.

Some people suffer side effects from radiation oncology treatment. Radiation along with chemo can heighten side effects.

Your care team will try to reduce any side effects of your head and neck cancer treatment.

Radiation Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer

The radiation oncologists at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center are among the nation's most skilled in treating head and neck cancer with:

Advanced imaging methods, like PET-CT, allow your doctor to target your cancer more precisely with less risk to healthy nearby tissue. These methods may also reduce your treatment-related side effects.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Head and Neck Cancer

UPMC leads the way in advanced stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) technologies for head and neck cancer, including CyberKnife® and Trilogy®.

SRS allows our experts to treat tumors in the head and neck without making any cuts.

Doctors generally reserve SRS for people with recurrent cancer who can't withstand common radiation or surgery because of:

  • Age
  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease

CyberKnife radiosurgery for head and neck cancer

CyberKnife precisely delivers highly conformal ablative radiation doses to head and neck tumors — not healthy tissue — with sub-millimeter accuracy.

The system automatically adjusts for small movements caused by breathing or coughing. This keeps the radiation beam in constant alignment with the tumor.

CyberKnife is suitable for treating cancerous and benign tumors without needing:

  • Anesthesia
  • Fixed head frames
  • Hospital stays

There's also little to no recovery time.

Trilogy treatment for head and neck tumors

Trilogy can treat head and neck tumors with pinpoint precision by taking a CT scan before, during, and after treatment.

Trilogy's advanced linear accelerator allows doctors to target tumors using image-guided technology during treatment.

The machine rotates around you and applies high doses of accurately targeted radiation directly to your tumor. This helps spare healthy tissue around the tumor.

For recurrent head or neck tumors, you can often complete Trilogy treatment in less than two weeks.

Contact Us About Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Call 412-647-2811 to learn more about radiation for treating head and neck cancer. Or, make an appointment for head and neck cancer care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.