Paragangliomas: Presentation and management by radiotherapy at the Prince of Wales Hospital

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Paragangliomas are commonly treated with surgery, while radiotherapy is reserved for those that are inoperable or have relapsed. However, this retrospective study aims to determine whether radiotherapy is a viable initial treatment for paragangliomas.


Of 73 tumours researched, 44 were diagnosed and treated from January 1967 to December 2012 at the Radiation Oncology Department at the Prince of Wales Hospital and thus were eligible for analysis. Median follow-up time was 3.5 years with a range of 1 to 40 years. Thirty-four tumours were treated with radiotherapy only, and 10 tumours were treated with both surgical resection and radiotherapy. Local control and cause-specific survival were the primary end points measured.


Five-year local control rate for the population of 44 lesions was 89%; it was 100% in the group treated by radiotherapy alone, but only 50% in the group treated by surgery followed by radiotherapy, with radiation used for salvage. The difference in control rates between these two subset groups was found to be statistically significant (P < 0.001). Cause-specific survival rates for this eligible population at 5 and 10 years were 98% and 90%, respectively. After initial radiotherapy, 4 patients had improved cranial nerve function, there was clinical improvement in tinnitus, and one new cranial nerve deficit developed where a high dose was used.


Radiotherapy has high local control rates and few complications. The local control and complication rates compare favourably to surgery.

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