Chemoradiation for nasopharyngeal cancer
This page tells you about the combination treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer of the nasopharynx. You can find the following information
Doctors often use a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. This is called chemoradiation. Chemoradiation treatment is a way to try to increase the effects of the radiotherapy. Your exact treatment plan will depend on what your doctor thinks is best for you.
The most common treatment includes the drugs cisplatin and fluorouracil (5-FU). How often you have chemotherapy depends on which drug or combination of drugs you have. Your doctor will tell you exactly how often you will have it.
Usually you have radiotherapy every day, from Monday to Friday, for about 7 weeks.
Side effects of combination treatment
Most people have side effects from chemoradiation. These will be the same as those described in the radiotherapy and chemotherapy sections. But having both treatments, at the same time, means the side effects can be more severe. You may get very tired, and have a very sore mouth.
If your mouth is very sore, it is important to tell your doctor or nurse, so that you can have the right painkillers. For some people, the mouth is so sore that it is difficult to swallow. If this happens to you, you are likely to need a feeding tube so that you can get enough liquid and calories.
It is important that you do not get an infection in your mouth. Your nurse will explain what you need to do to keep your mouth clean and avoid infection.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating nasopharyngeal cancer section.
Having chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time is called chemoradiation or synchronous therapy. Researchers have found that chemoradiation works better than radiotherapy alone for people whose cancer has grown into the tissue around the nasopharynx or into the nearby lymph nodes.
Some chemotherapy drugs help to make the cells more sensitive to the radiotherapy.
Your exact treatment plan will depend on what your doctor thinks is best for you. How often you have chemotherapy depends on which drug or combination of drugs you have. You usually have radiotherapy every day, from Monday to Friday, for about 7 weeks. Although it is usual to avoid delay, occasionally the treatment needs to be stopped for a short time because of the side effects. But treatment can usually start again after a few days rest.
You may have one or more of the following chemotherapy drugs with radiotherapy
Some of these treatments are experimental for nasopharyngeal cancer and you may have them as part of a clinical trial.
It is likely that you will have some side effects from your treatment. These are the same as those described in the radiotherapy and chemotherapy sections. But when you have both treatments together some of the side effects can be more severe.
In particular, you are likely to get a very sore mouth and throat. For some people, the mouth is so sore that it is difficult to swallow. If this happens, you are likely to need a feeding tube so that you can get enough liquid and calories. You will also have painkillers. You may need a strong painkiller, such as morphine, to help make your mouth more comfortable.
When you have a very sore mouth and throat, it is important that you are very careful about infection. Try to keep your mouth clean and follow the advice of your nurse and dentist. Contact the hospital at the first sign of infection – particularly a high temperature with chills, or a cough. It is likely that you will need to go to the hospital and have antibiotics through a drip.
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