A new study appearing in the December 1, 2005, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology* Physics, says that a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy could avert speech problems in head and neck cancer patients.
The journal, which is the official publication of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO), adds that this combination approach is better than radical surgery, which sometimes necessitates the removal of the vocal cords in the larynx. These findings were made by doctors at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich, who monitored 97 patients with advanced laryngeal cancer in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. All these patients were initially put on chemotherapy and after assessment of their response were either treated with radiation or surgery.
The doctors found that patients who did not undergo surgery and took radiation therapy has a better timbre of voice than patients who had their larynx removed. The swallowing function of both thr groups was pretty much the same, but patients with an intact larynx were able to understand speech better. Commenting on these findings, Kevin Fung, the lead author of the study and currently a Head and Neck Surgeon at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada said, "Undergoing the radiation, chemotherapy combination can increase toxicity levels in some patients, but maintaining the overall quality of life for those patients justifies the potential for added toxicity.'
It was also found that 89 percent of patients who underwent radiation were able to obtain essential nutrients orally, while only 64 percent of the laryngectomy patients were able to do so, "The overall survival rate is high for both sets of patients but those patients who respond well to the initial treatments and can avoid the surgery also avoid the social, emotional and physical side effects such as cosmetic disfigurement and speech alteration," concluded Fung.