Living beyond cancer – survival outcomes after palliative radiotherapy


Session type:


Shelly English, Mohammed Abdul-Latif, Atia Khan, Anna Thompson



The aim of palliative radiotherapy is to improve symptoms caused by cancer. Common symptoms experienced by patients with head and neck cancer include: pain, bleeding and dysphagia.

In patients with symptomatic locally advanced head and neck cancer, not treatable by radical treatment, the median overall survival is in the range of 3.3–17 months but most studies reported median survival of around 6 months(1). It also noted the choice of palliative radiotherapy regimes varied significantly, with no agreement on the best dose fractionation and planning method (1).


A retrospective review was undertaken of all head and neck cancer patients treated with palliative radiotherapy at our centre from January 2016 to December 2019 inclusive. 56 patients where included. The median follow-up time was 769 days. Radiotherapy records were used for treatment dates, clinical data and NHS Spine was used for dates of death.


55 of the 56 patients completed their prescribed course of radiotherapy. The majority of patients received fractionated radiotherapy (n=55).Predominately 2 dose fractionations were used within the department, 36Gy in 12 fractions on consecutive days (Monday to Friday) over 2.5 weeks (n=11) or 27Gy in 6 # twice weekly on non-consecutive days over three weeks (n=24).

The median overall survival (OS) for the patient group was 144 days (4.7 months) range (8 – 1065 days)


Our results suggest that our overall survival data is similar to that of published literature. We found hat the treatment regimens are safe and tolerable for palliative radiotherapy with 98% patients completing the prescribed course.We would recommend a prospective study to be undertaken in our department to collect quality of life data to assess the symptomatic benefit of our treatments.

Impact statement

Palliative radiotherapy in tolerated well to improve survival