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Cureus. 2018 Apr 22;10(4):e2517. doi: 10.7759/cureus.2517.

Permanent Interstitial Brachytherapy for Previously Irradiated Head and Neck Cancer.

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Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA.
Otolaryngology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA.



To evaluate our institutional experience using brachytherapy for the re-irradiation of the head and neck.


We reviewed the records of patients who received brachytherapy for head and neck cancer in a previously irradiated field between 2007 and 2016.


Sixty-nine patients received brachytherapy-based re-irradiation. Forty-nine patients (71%) were treated for recurrent cancers, 15 patients (22%) had second primary cancers, and five patients (7%) were treated for persistent tumors. The median dose was 90 Gy (range 30-180). Median follow-up was 3.0 years for surviving patients and 0.6 years for all patients. Overall survival at one, three, and five years was 58%, 19%, and 12%, respectively. Local control at one, three, and five years was 55%, 38%, and 28%, respectively. A disease-free interval of less than one year was associated with significantly worse local control (p=.04). Patients who received brachytherapy for a neck disease had significantly worse locoregional control than those who received brachytherapy for mucosal disease (heart rate (HR) 2.14, 95% CI 1.00-4.56, p=.05). Patients who had an extranodal extension had significantly worse overall survival than those without an extranodal extension (HR 2.57, 95% CI 1.28-5.37, p=.008). Seventy-four percent of patients who had pain before brachytherapy (with or without surgery) had an improvement of symptoms. Acute and chronic toxicity of at least Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events Grade 3 was seen in 27% and 19% of the patients, respectively.


Brachytherapy-based re-irradiation is an effective approach for patients undergoing re-irradiation for head and neck cancer. Brachytherapy may be more effective for mucosal recurrences than neck recurrences.


brachytherapy; head and neck cancer; interstitial brachytherapy; oncology; palliative radiotherapy; radiation; re-irradiation

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