Importance of Completing Radiation Treatments

David I. Rosenthal, MD
Last Modified: January 27, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My mom was diagnosed with Cancer of the Nasopharynx. She needed to have radiation treatments twice a day for 5 weeks. She only made it through 28 treatments because the pain in her throat was very bad and she was exhausted.

She has decided not to go for any more treatments.

Can you give me any information on this?  


David I. Rosenthal, MD, Director for Head and Neck Radiation Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Once a radiation treatment plan appropriate for a patient is started, it is important that it be completed. Incomplete treatment is much less likely to be effective. Sometimes patients need a short break from treatment to recover from side effects, but this needs to be determined by the treating radiation oncologist. There are times that changes to the treatment plan are needed with a decrease in treatment intensity. This might mean stopping chemotherapy that is being given with the radiation or going from twice a day to once-daily radiation therapy. The overall time course of treatment is critical. It is much better for the radiation oncologist to make alterations in the treatment plan then to have the patient stop the therapy completely. Excessive delays to completing therapy once started can decrease the effectiveness of this treatment substantially.

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