A landmark study of over 6,200 patients with head and neck cancer treated with radiation therapy revealed a startling result. The cure rates increased by 21% – a huge number – for those patients treated by an experienced radiation oncology doctor. Dr. I. J. Boero and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego published their study in the March 1 issue of the prestigious Journal of Clinical Oncology (J Clin Oncol 2016; 34:684-690).
Their conclusion was clear; high volume radiation oncology doctors did better for their patients than low volume doctors. Volume indicates how many patients they treat in a year with a cancer of the head and neck region.
A BIG CANCER CLINIC IS NOT THE SAME AS EXPERIENCE
If you ask me, it is not a surprising conclusion. What was surprising was the magnitude of the difference. Head and neck cancer patients have a 21% better chance of survival if they are treated by an experienced head and neck radiation oncology physician. The second surprising conclusion was that the benefit is not seen with patients who are treated with conventional radiation therapy performed at many hospitals. This concludes the argument that the better result with high-volume radiation oncology doctors are not due to the experience of other team members, including the medical oncologist, nurses, speech pathologist, or the radiation therapists who actually set up the patients and treat them on a day-to-day basis. IMRT takes much more skill and experience on the part of the radiation oncology doctor than conventional head and neck radiotherapy.
SEEK EXPERIENCE IN HEAD AND NECK CANCER TREATMENT
So experience counts. A lot. Finding an experienced radiation oncology doctor is the key first step in successful treatment of your head and neck cancer. When seeking a physician to treat you, ask them how many patients do they treat with this type of cancer. For instance, many cancer centers today are joined with urologists, so their focus is prostate cancer. Many are attached to a neuroscience center, so their focus is brain and spine. Seek a physician who has experience with head and neck cancers.
At First Dayton Cancer Care, we have the most experienced, high-volume radiation oncology doctors in Southwest Ohio. If you have any questions about your head and neck cancer, please feel free to call Dr. Edward Hughes or Dr. Donald Marger at 855-Dayton 1.