PURPOSE - To conduct a retrospective review of 168 consecutively treated locally advanced head-and-neck cancer (LAHNC) patients treated with intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)/chemotherapy, to determine the rate and risk factors for developing hypothyroidism.
METHODS AND MATERIALS - Intensity-modulated radiotherapy was delivered in 33 daily fractions to 69.3 Gy to gross disease and 56.1 Gy to clinically normal cervical nodes. Dose-volume histograms (DVHs) of IMRT plans were used to determine radiation dose to thyroid and were compared with DVHs using conventional three-dimensional radiotherapy (3D-RT) in 10 of these same patients randomly selected for replanning and with DVHs of 16 patients in whom the thyroid was intentionally avoided during IMRT. Weekly paclitaxel (30 mg/m(2)) and carboplatin area under the curve-1 were given concurrently with IMRT.
RESULTS - Sixty-one of 128 evaluable patients (47.7%) developed hypothyroidism after a median of 1.08 years after IMRT (range, 2.4 months to 3.9 years). Age and volume of irradiated thyroid were associated with hypothyroidism development after IMRT. Compared with 3D-RT, IMRT with no thyroid dose constraints resulted in significantly higher minimum, maximum, and median dose (p < 0.0001) and percentage thyroid volume receiving 10, 20, and 60 Gy (p < 0.05). Compared with 3D-RT, IMRT with thyroid dose constraints resulted in lower median dose and percentage thyroid volume receiving 30, 40, and 50 Gy (p < 0.005) but higher minimum and maximum dose (p < 0.005).
CONCLUSIONS - If not protected, IMRT for LAHNC can result in higher radiation to the thyroid than with conventional 3D-RT. Techniques to reduce dose and volume of radiation to thyroid tissue with IMRT are achievable and recommended.
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