Together with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), we are comparing surgical intervention against radiation therapy in terms of their efficacy in treating patients with early-stage squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity (oral cancer). The objective is to improve quality of life and the recovery of a normal swallowing function following treatment.
Surgical intervention entails complete excision of the tumor in the oral cavity and of any affected lymph nodes in the neck. The latter are removed because there is a risk of the cancer spreading to adjoining tissue. By contrast, radiation therapy employs ionizing radiation (similar to that used in x-rays) to destroy the cancer cells. Advanced technologies make it possible to irradiate only the tumor and the lymph nodes requiring treatment, while minimizing the effect on surrounding healthy tissue.
The decision as to which option to choose is generally based on the experience gained by the hospital in question. Since both surgery and radiation therapy exhibit a very good relationship between tolerability and efficacy, it is important to evaluate which of the two treatment options offers the patient more advantages.