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Chemo treatments lengthen lives for head, neck cancer patients

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

Patients with head and neck cancer receiving a combined treatment of chemotherapy and radiation may live 2.1 years longer than those treated only with radiotherapy, new research suggests.

The study, published in the October 27 issue of The Lancet Oncology, separated 966 patients with advanced head and neck cancer into four treatment groups, and examined their progression over 10 years, HealthDay News reports. The four groups designated patients who received radiotherapy alone, two courses of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiotherapy, two courses of chemotherapy after completing radiotherapy, and chemotherapy both during, and after radiotherapy.

Researchers found that chemo, given at the same time as radiotherapy, was most effective in reducing deaths and cancer recurrence in head and neck cancer patients who hadn't undergone surgery. Chemotherapy given after radiotherapy was completely ineffective, according to the study.

The UK Head and Neck Cancer Group researchers wrote that chemotherapy drugs offer an "inexpensive" method to "considerably improve the likelihood of completing treatment, essential for improving the chances of a cure."

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1,500 people in the U.S. are expected to die of cancer each day in the next year. Doctors recommend an array of imaging tests or lab tests to detect some types of cancer while they are treatable.

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