Radiation Doses to Structures Within and Adjacent to the Larynx are Correlated With Long-Term Diet- and Speech-Related Quality of Life

Ken Dornfeld, Joel R. Simmons, Lucy Karnell, Michael Karnell, Gerry Funk, Min Yao, Judith Wacha, Bridget Zimmerman, John M. Buatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Purpose: To test the hypothesis that radiation dose to key sites in the upper aerodigestive tract is associated with long-term functional outcome after (chemo)radiotherapy for head-and-neck cancers. Methods and Materials: This study examined the outcome for 27 patients treated with intensity-modulated radiotherapy for definitive management of their head-and-neck cancer who were disease free for at least 1 year after treatment. Head-and-neck cancer-specific quality of life (QoL) was assessed before treatment and at 1 year after treatment. Type of diet tolerated, presence of a feeding tube, and degree of weight loss 1 year after treatment were also used as outcome measures. Radiation doses delivered to various points along the upper aerodigestive tract, including base of tongue, lateral pharyngeal walls, and laryngeal structures, were determined from each treatment plan. Radiation doses for each of these points were tested for correlation with outcome measures. Results: Higher doses delivered to the aryepiglottic folds, false vocal cords, and lateral pharyngeal walls near the false cords correlated with a more restrictive diet, and higher doses to the aryepiglottic folds correlated with greater weight loss (p < 0.05) 1 year after therapy. Better posttreatment speech QoL scores were associated with lower doses delivered to structures within and surrounding the larynx. Conclusion: Our data show an inverse relationship between radiation dose delivered to laryngeal structures and speech and diet and QoL outcomes after definitive (chemo)radiation treatment. These findings suggest that efforts to deliver lower doses to laryngeal structures may improve outcomes after definitive (chemo)radiation therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-757
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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