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Head & Neck Tumor Treatment Options

Discover your options for treating Head & Neck tumors

Spokane CyberKnife head & neck cancer treatments are non-surgical and performed on an outpatient basis. Treatments are delivered with sub-millimeter accuracy once per day for up to five days and without the requirement of the rigid head-frame that is screwed to the patients skull, as is with the Gamma Knife. Most patients experience minimal to no side effects with a quick recovery time.

*Cyberknife and TrueBeam Head & Neck Tumor treatments are covered by Medicare and most all insurances.

What Sets CyberKnife Apart?

CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery
For Head & Neck Tumors

The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 to treat tumors in the head and base of the skull. Despite its name, the CyberKnife System is not a surgical procedure. In fact, there is no cutting involved. Instead, the CyberKnife System delivers high doses of pin-point radiation directly to Head and Neck cancers.

Cyberknife ‘frameless’ Robotic Radiosurgery innovates treatment of Head and Neck tumors by effectively removing and shrinking localized, solid-mass tumors. CyberKnife® tracks a tumor’s true location in real-time during treatment, continually imaging the tumor location and adjusting for movement. This makes a stereotactic frame unnecessary. Cyberknife can treat cancers and tumors in the head and neck area (and the entire body) giving a proven, effective method for treating inoperable patients that have unresectable and marginally resectable tumors.

The treatment of healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor leads to more side effects. With the submillimeter accuracy of the Cyberknife, patients have experienced limited to no side effects with limited to no downtime, even on the days of treatment, returning immediately to normal activities. In addition the Cyberknife treatments are short and painless, completed in 1 to 5 treatments, one per day.

While standard radiotherapy irradiates both normal and cancerous tissues, (5-20 millimeter accuracy), CyberKnife delivers an ablative dose to the tumor with sub-millimeter accuracy and minimal exposure of normal tissue. As a result, CyberKnife can treat inoperable patients, shrink tumors for less radical resections, destroy radio-resistant tumors and treat patients previously treated with radiation. In addition, Cyberknife treatments are completed in 1 to 5 short, painless treatments.

With CyberKnife, the range of head and neck tumors treatable with stereotactic radiosurgical ablation is unprecedented.

Head & Neck Cancers We Treat With CyberKnife

Head & Neck Cancers We Treat With CyberKnife open

CyberKnife vs. Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife requires a rigid invasive head-frame screwed to the skull. 
Cyberknife is Frameless and has the same sub-millimeter accuracy. 

Cyberknife Comparisons to Gamma Knife open

There are several ways of performing stereotactic radiosurgery. Some types of stereotactic radiosurgery methods require a rigid, invasive metal head frame that is screwed into the skull to hold the head in place during treatment. However, such frame-based systems have numerous limitations, including:


In contrast to the standard frame-based radiosurgical instruments, the CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system combines three features unique to any other system:

This combination enables the CyberKnife to overcome the limitations of older frame-based radiosurgery systems such as the Gamma Knife and LINAC.

Head & Neck Tumor Treatment
At Spokane CyberKnife

1. How Does CyberKnife Treat Head & Neck Cancer open

CyberKnife® is the most advanced non-invasive treatment technology for destroying Head and Neck Tumors with radiation in the most progressive form called Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS).

CyberKnife® is unique in that it is the only dedicated robotic radiosurgery system that tracks a tumor’s true location in real-time throughout treatment and continually adjusts for even the slightest movement. This makes a stereotactic frame unnecessary. CyberKnife® delivers an ablative dose to the head and neck tumor with sub-millimeter accuracy. With minimal exposure of normal tissue patients can experience limited to no side effects and immediate return to normal activities, even on the days of treatment. Cyberknife treatments are short and painless and completed once per day for 1 to 5 days.

Head & Neck Tumors CyberKnife Treats

What Sets CyberKnife Apart?

2. How Does TrueBeam Treat Head & Neck Tumors? open

Spokane Cyberknife is pleased to announce the arrival of the new TrueBeam™ system to Spokane. TrueBeam™ is an advanced radiotherapy technology for treating cancers throughout the body. Spokane Cyberknife is the only center in the United States with not one, but the two most advanced Radiation Treatment Technologies in one center. Your Cancer Experts at Spokane Cyberknife work with your unique condition to personalize the most effective treatment plan, that at times involves multiple technologies and methodologies, and only Spokane Cyberknife can offer this with the Cyberknife M6 and Truebeam from one center.

Opening up treatment options for people with cancer, it targets tumors with accuracy measured in millimeters. With its power and flexibility, clinicians can develop treatments that are best suited for patients’ individual circumstances.

3. What Is RadioSurgery? open
What is Radiosurgery?

Radiosurgery = Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)

Many cancers cannot be completely eradicated with traditional radiation therapy (RT) techniques. The goal of radiation treatment has always been to maximize the delivery of radiation to tumors while minimizing the amount of radiation to normal tissue. The higher the radiation dose delivered to a tumor, the greater the chance of tumor destruction. Likewise, the lower the radiation dose delivered to surrounding normal tissue, the less destruction. Historically, the available technology, found at other centers, was unable to accurately deliver high dose radiation to a tumor without also affecting the surrounding tissue. To minimize collateral damage to the surrounding tissues, radiation oncologists traditionally deliver radiation over many sessions, giving low doses each day over usually several weeks, (25 to 45 days). Following each fraction of radiation the normal tissue cells can recover better than many cancerous cells. Over many sessions, the hope is that more tumor cells die than normal tissue cells. Unfortunately, this strategy is often unsuccessful.

With the development of SRS & SBRT, physicians are now able to deliver lethal (surgical) doses of radiation to a tumor with sub-millimeter (surgical) accuracy, in 1 to 5 treatments. This methodology maximizes the amount of radiation going directly to the target tissue (and thus maximizing tumor response rate) while minimizing the radiation exposure to surrounding tissue. This is evidenced in the studies that compare the clinical treatment volume (CTV) to the planning treatment volume (PTV). With SRS & SBRT, unlike RT, the CTV and PTV are more closely aligned, which means that SRS & SBRT is able to precisely deliver lethal doses of radiation to the target tissue. By minimizing the impact on healthy tissue, SRS & SBRT shortens patient recovery time and decreases complication rates.

As technology has continued to evolve advancements have enabled physicians to apply SRS & SBRT to lesions in the body, as well as to lesions in the cranium, head, and neck. Procedures were originally performed on cranial tumors because the technology at the time required a frame, which can easily be screwed into the skull, as with the Gamma Knife. Attempts to develop body frames were cumbersome and unsuccessful. As a result, initially, no technological solution was available to accurately deliver lethal doses of radiation to tumors below the head without also destroying normal tissue.

Then came CyberKnife, the first and only dedicated robotic, SRS & SBRT treatment technology. And for the first time we now have a technology that allows for real time tracking of a tumor regardless of where it is in the body. Physicians are now able to achieve sub-millimeter (.3MM) accuracy in the head, without the frame, by using the anatomical markings of the skull and taking advantage of the stable relationship between the skull and an intracranial tumor. In the same manner, we are now able to use the anatomical markings of the spine to treat spinal lesions. For other tumors in soft tissue throughout the body, we are able to track, in real time, small gold fiducials placed in the tumor to accurately deliver radiosurgical doses.

Over the last 17 years, SRS & SBRT has case study data proving the clinical effectiveness in treating intra-cranial, extra-cranial neck, and body tumors. In many cases SRS & SBRT provides a clinically superior alternative to either surgery or traditional RT for head and body lesions. In some cases, SRS & SBRT is the only effective option. The SRS & SBRT approach allows for dose escalation, hypo-fractionation, and

heterogeneity of dosage within the tumor volume, and improved conformality and accuracy. As a result, SRS & SBRT delivers unique benefits to the patient, including improved tumor response, higher cure rates, improved pain control, success against tumors that had been radio-resistant or had exceeded tolerance levels, reduction in organ damage, and improved tolerance. These unique benefits apply to tumors regardless of their location in the head/neck or body.

Head & Neck Cancer and Tumors Information

1. Head & Neck Cancer Symptoms open

Head and neck cancers effect the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or voice box. They normally begin in the cells that line the mucosal surfaces in the head and neck.

Common Head and Neck Cancers: 

*WARNING: Tobacco (including chewing tobacco) and alcohol use are the most important risk factors for cancers of the head and neck area.

Symptoms of head and neck cancers include:

2. Diagnosis of Head & Neck Cancers open

To diagnose a head and neck condition, a physician will conduct a physical examination to investigate the cause of the symptoms, including a visual inspection of the oral and nasal cavities, neck throat and tongue. The doctor may feel for lumps or tenderness in the area. The patient’s medical history will be evaluated and diagnostic tests may be ordered. Since symptoms may be caused by other, less serious conditions, an examination of a tissue sample under a microscope is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of cancer.

If the doctor finds that the diagnosis is cancer, the next step is to determine the stage, or extent, of the disease. Staging is an attempt to determine if the cancer has metastasized and to which parts of the body. Knowing the extent of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment. To find out the stage of the cancer, a patient may be examined in an operating room under anesthesia and need additional scans or laboratory tests.

3. Locations of Head & Neck Cancers open

These cancers are identified by the area where they begin: Other cancers in the head, such as cancer of the Brain, Eye, Thyroid, Skin or Bones of the Head and Neck, are not grouped with Cancers of the Head and Neck.
See a doctor or dentist if you have concerns about any of the following symptoms.

4. Treatment Options For Head & Neck Cancers open

The treatment plan for patients with head and neck cancers depends on several factors including the location, size and stage of the cancer. The patient’s age and general health will also be a consideration. The doctor and patient will examine each option carefully, and discuss how the treatment will affect the way the patient looks, talks, eats and breathes.

Radiation Therapy 

Video - Head & Neck Cancer Treatment

Cyberknife Patient Education:
Head & Neck Cancer Treatment

CyberKnife Explained By Neurosurgeons

Truebeam Patient Education:
Head & Neck Cancer Treatment

Cyberknife Patient Testimonial:
Head & Neck Conditions

CyberKnife Comparison Chart - Why CyberKnife Is Leading Edge Technology

Brain – Head & Neck Technology Treatment ComparisonCyberKnifeGamma KnifeTomotherapyConventional Radiation Therapy

Targeted Accuracy< 1 Millimeter< 1 Millimeter3-20 Millimeters5-20 Millimeters
Invasive Head-FrameNeverRequired for all TreatmentsRequired in most TreatmentsRequired
Number of TreatmentsFlexible(1 to 5)

*See Clinical Studies

Limited to 1FlexibleFlexible
Motion ManagementYesNoNoNo
Real-time Imaging with auto correctionYesNoNoNo
Dedicated Radiosurgery TechnologyYesYesNoNo
ApplicationsBrain - Full Spine
& Body
Brain & Limited Cervical SpineFull BodyFull Body

CyberKnife Case Studies

Recurrent Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head & Neck
-A CyberKnife Case Study-
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Cyberknife is the Emerging Technology for Head & Neck Cancers
Boston University Medical Center – Case Study