Awareness and surveillance of radiation treatment schedules reduces head and neck overall treatment time

Forfattere Christiansen RL, Gornitzka J, Andersen P, Nielsen M, Johnsen L, Bertelsen A, Zukauskaite R, Johansen J, Hansen CR
Kilde Tech Innov Patient Support Radiat Oncol. 2019 Feb 23;9:26-30 Publiceringsdato 23 feb 2019

Background and purpose

Overall treatment time (OTT) is essential for local tumour control and survival in radiotherapy of head and neck cancer (HNC). National radiotherapy guidelines of the Danish Head and Neck Cancer Group (DAHANCA) recommend a maximum OTT of 41 days for moderately accelerated radiation treatment (6 fractions/week) and 48 days for conventional treatment (5 fractions/week). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of surveillance of the radiotherapy course length and treatment gaps in HNC patients to reduce OTT.


The study included 2011 patients with HNC undergoing radical radiation treatment with 66–68 Gy in 33–34 fractions in 2003–2017 at Odense University Hospital. In February 2016, a systematic weekly review by two radiation therapists of all planned treatment courses was introduced to check OTT of individual patients to portend likely breaks or treatment prolongations. Schedules that violated the OTT guidelines were conferred with the responsible radiation oncologist, and treatment rescheduled by treating twice daily to catch up with a delay.


The mean length of accelerated treatment courses was reduced from a maximum of 40.9 days in 2007 to 38.3 days in 2017 and from 50.3 days to 45.9 days for conventional courses. The percentage of individual treatment courses that violated the recommended OTT was reduced to 3% of the accelerated treatments and 13% for the conventional treatments.


Continuous surveillance of treatment schedules of HNC patients by a brief weekly survey reduced treatment course duration to an extent that was radiobiologically and clinically meaningful.