Radiotherapy Patterns of Practice: T1N0 Glottic Cancer in Ontario, Canada
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AIMS: To describe the variation in the delivery of radiation therapy to patients with T1N0 glottic cancer who were diagnosed in Ontario, Canada, between 1982 and 1995. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The patient population consisted of a random sample of 461 patients treated with curative intent from the nine cancer centres that administer radiation therapy in the province. Abstracted variables included prescribed dose (Gy) and fractionation (f), beam energy and arrangement, set-up, field size, beam modifiers, positioning and treatment interruptions. RESULTS: Thirteen prescribed dose-fractionation schemes (> or = four cases each) were identified, including 50.0-53.0 Gy/20 f (54.5%), 55.0-61.0 Gy/25 f (30.3%), and 60.0-66.0 Gy/30-33 f (7.7%). All regimens used one fraction per day, 5 days per week. An isocentric set-up was used (94.3%), with megavoltage (MV) beam energies of Cobalt-60 (87.9%), 6 MV (6.1%) and 4 MV (6.1%). A lateral parallel-opposed pair of beams was the predominant technique (76.4%) versus an anterior oblique pair (17.2%) or angle-down pair (caudally directed fields to achieve shoulder clearance, 5.7%). Wedging (96.3%) and bolus (11.8%) were used as beam-modifying devices. Predominant field-width dimensions were 5.0-6.0 cm (43.4%) and 6.5-7.0 cm (43.1%), and field length dimensions were 5.0-6.0 cm (49.5%) and 6.5-7.0 cm (35.0%). Head, neck or chin immobilisation was used in 86.9% of the cases, with 94.6% of these being custom-made. We found that radiotherapy practice was stable over time, except for a trend of increasing field size and increasing use of immobilisation. In contrast, we found practice variations among the province's cancer centres. On the basis of our findings, we defined a predominant technical practice consisting of Cobalt-60 (reflecting machine availability during the period of the study), an isocentric set-up, a lateral parallel-opposed pair technique with wedging, and supine-head neutral positioning with custom immobilisation. Forty-two per cent of the cases had one or more components of treatment that differed from this definition. CONCLUSIONS: Description of practice variation can provoke discussion about unrecognised differences in practice policies, perhaps identifying the need for better evidence, treatment guidelines, or both.
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