Objectives: To provide an overview of the state of the art in the management of head and neck cancers with radiation therapy (RT) and review issues concerning dose-fractionation, concurrent systemic treatment as well as acute and chronic toxicity.
Data sources: Published peer-reviewed research articles, technical documents, and patient management guidelines.
Conclusion: Modern RT techniques can use technical advances to precisely target regions involved by the tumor, while sparing normal structures. This has significant implications for treatment decisions and anticipated treatment toxicities. Our understanding of radiation effects on tumor and normal tissues and their optimal care are continuously evolving.
Implications for nursing practice: Nurses need to be aware of the basic principles underlying the technical advances in RT in order to be able to counsel patients during their decision-making and treatment. They also need to stay updated on the pathophysiology and current management of acute and chronic toxicities of radiation treatment in order to provide optimal supportive care.