Toxicity in head and neck cancer: a review of trends and issues

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2000 Apr 1;47(1):1-12. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(99)00558-1.


The quest for improved fractionation and combined modality regimens in head and neck cancer has also yielded progressively higher rates of toxicity. Time compression of dose delivery in accelerated fractionation has produced high rates of severe mucositis including the early stoppage of two randomized trials. The addition of chemotherapy has introduced systemic toxicity and can exacerbate local tissue reactions when used concurrent with radiotherapy. Mucositis is recognized as the principal impediment to efforts at further treatment intensification. The development and utilization of standardized toxicity grading criteria and accepted reporting standards has lagged toxicity production, impeding a full appreciation of the true extent of both acute and late toxicity. Objective data regarding acute and chronic effects on organ function are also sorely lacking. A better characterization of the frequency, severity, and duration of the various toxicities encountered in head and neck cancer will also allow the rational development of toxicity interventions. New methods are needed to summarize the global or aggregate toxicity of a treatment program. Further research into the assessment and analysis of toxicity is not only crucial to improvements in quality of life (QOL), but perhaps, improved rates of disease control as well.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy / adverse effects
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Forecasting
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Mucous Membrane / drug effects
  • Mucous Membrane / radiation effects
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiation Injuries / classification
  • Radiation Injuries / complications*
  • Salvage Therapy / adverse effects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Stomatitis / pathology
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Time Factors