Targeted Therapy or Radiation: Which Is Best for Your Head and Neck Cancer?

You’ve discovered a lump, or had other symptoms that have worried you. Then you receive the news that you have cancer, but it’s treatable. What do you do? The first thing you may need to do is talk to a counselor. A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, and your loved ones will need to know what’s happening. They’ll likely want to help you during this difficult and scary time. 

Our providers at Petoskey Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists can help you identify the type of cancer you have and offer effective guidance and treatment. We’re armed with several treatment options and ready to answer any questions you may have. When considering cancer treatment options through us, our patients typically choose between targeted therapy and radiation.  

How does targeted therapy work?

Targeted therapy refers to the use of intravenous (IV) drugs that are engineered to affect only cancer cells. This means that the drug is made to weaken and destroy cancer cells, or cells that produce the protein that the drug is hunting. Targeted therapy comes in a variety of different drugs that work in a similar way. 

While targeted therapy is an important type of treatment, it isn’t always the most reliable. If the target within the type of cancer that you have mutates or isn’t the exact target that our doctors thought that it was, the medicine may not work. Even if the drug is correctly matched, it’s still possible that your tumors won’t respond to the treatment, or will stop responding to the treatment. 

Patients who have certain kinds of targeted therapy may experience side effects such as tingling, rashes, itchy skin, or hair loss. Our empathetic and experienced physicians will discuss the risks with you in detail, and make sure that you understand the possibilities. 

How does radiation work?

Radiation therapy consists of high-energy rays given in doses through a machine. Depending on what our specialists recommend, this treatment may need to be done in our office with a technician, but there is another option: brachytherapy. This type of radiation treatment is implanted in your body near the cancer, where the high energy beams can go right to it, slowly releasing the radiation therapy.

Radiation is often used in conjunction with surgery. Radiation can rid your body of the tumors that can’t be removed surgically, or you may have radiation first to shrink the tumor before removal. Radiation may also be used as the primary treatment, in lieu of other treatments. 

We sit down to discuss all of the details about radiation therapy with you. If it’s determined that radiation is your best option, it’s extremely important that you go to the dentist before beginning your treatment. One of the possible side effects of radiation treatment is tooth decay, and your dentist will need to remove or remedy any damaged teeth you may have. Radiation therapy can affect your thyroid gland, mouth, and swallowing function.   

I’m not sure which option is right for me

That’s okay. We work with you to choose a treatment plan that will be the most effective in healing you. We understand that a cancer diagnosis is devastating news, and that the treatment process is long and trying. Let our compassionate team help you. We have offices in Gaylord and Petoskey, Michigan. Call us for an appointment today or use our online scheduling tool. 

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