Patterns of failure after postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy for locally advanced and recurrent head and neck cancer

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To evaluate the feasibility of postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy for head and neck cancer by investigating the patterns of failure after this therapy.


A retrospective chart review was performed.


Between March 2006 and December 2013, 122 consecutive patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma were treated by surgery followed by postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy. In regard to the site of the primary tumor, 59 (48%) patients had cancer of the oral cavity, 31 (26%) patients had cancer of the hypopharynx, 14 (11%) patients had cancer of the oropharynx, 10 (8%) patients had cancer of the larynx and 8 (7%) patients had cancer of unknown primary. The median follow-up period of the surviving patients was 54 months (range, 25–115). Concurrent chemotherapy was administered in 76 patients (62%). The median prescribed radiation dose was 66 Gy. The 3-year overall survival, progression-free survival, distant metastasis free survival and loco-regional control rates were 59%, 48%, 52.4% and 71%, respectively. Of the 122 patients, 32 developed loco-regional recurrence as the initial recurrence, including in-field recurrence in 26 patients, marginal recurrence in five patients and out-field recurrence in seven patients. Of the five patients with marginal recurrence, four have had two or more surgeries before the intensity-modulated radiotherapy and three had oral cavity cancer. Severe adverse events were not frequent, occurring at a frequency of <5%, except for mucositis. No severe toxicities associated with the flap reconstruction were observed either.


Postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy appears to be effective and feasible for patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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