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Indian J Palliat Care. 2013 May;19(2):93-8. doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.116709.

Hypofractionated Palliative Radiotherapy in Locally Advanced Inoperable Head and Neck Cancer: CMC Vellore Experience.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India.



A novel, short duration, palliative radiotherapy schedule for inoperable head and neck cancer was evaluated in terms of palliation of cancer-related symptoms and acute toxicities.


Thirty-six patients with inoperable head and neck cancer were included in the study (2010-2012). All patients received 40 Gy in 10 fractions (equivalent dose: 49.8 Gy in conventional fractionation) with 2 fractions per week. Treatment-related toxicity was assessed using Radiation Therapy Oncology Group criteria. Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (Head and Neck, FACT H and N) quality of life (QOL) tool was administered before starting and at the completion of radiotherapy. Mean value before and after treatment was compared (paired t-test, P = 0.05, two-tailed for significance).


Thirty-three patients (male: 29, female: 4, mean age: 57.8 ± 9.7 years) were included in the analysis (three patients discontinued treatment due to socioeconomic reasons). All patients had advanced inoperable head and neck cancers (27% IVA, 61% IVB, 9% IVC, TNM stage and 3% recurrent disease). Distressing pain at primary site (42%), dysphagia (18%), neck swelling (30%), and hoarseness (10%) were common presentations. Incidence of grade III mucositis and dermatitis and pain was 18%, 3%, and 24%, respectively. Planned radiotherapy without any interruptions was completed by 73% patients. QOL assessment showed improvement in social well-being (17.4 vs. 20.01, P = 0.03), but no significant change was observed in head and neck specific score (25.1 vs. 25.0, P = NS) after treatment. Reduction of pain was observed in 88% patients and 60% patients had improvement of performance status. Median overall survival of the cohort was 7 months.


The study shows that this short duration palliative radiotherapy schedule is a clinically viable option for advanced inoperable head and neck cancer to achieve significant palliation of the main presenting symptoms like pain, dysphagia, and throat pain.


Cancer pain; Hypofractionated radiotherapy; Inoperable head and neck cancer; Palliative radiotherapy

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