Intensity-modulated radiation therapy for head and neck cancer: emphasis on the selection and delineation of the targets

Semin Radiat Oncol. 2002 Jul;12(3):238-49. doi: 10.1053/srao.2002.32435.


The head and neck contain many critical, noninvolved structures in close vicinity to the targets. The tightly conformal doses produced by intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and the lack of internal organ motion in the head and neck, provide the potential for organ sparing and improved tumor irradiation. Many studies of treatment planning for head and neck cancer have demonstrated the dosimetric superiority of IMRT over conventional techniques in these respects. The initial results of clinical studies demonstrate reduced xerostomia. They suggest an improvement in tumor control, which needs to be verified in larger studies and longer follow-up. Critical issues for successful outcome of head and neck IMRT are accurate selection of the neck lymph nodes that require adjuvant treatment, and accurate delineation on the planning computed tomography (CT) of the lymph-node bearing areas and subclinical disease adjoining the gross tumor. This review emphasizes these topics and provides some guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted*
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed