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Nasopharyngeal Radiation Mask

by Jerry & Sherry Dysart - January 23, 2007

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My husband went through radiation for nasal pharnyx (nasopharyx, nasopharengeal) squamous cell carcinoma in 1999. He was fitted with a mask, which is initally wet or soft and molded to the head until it hardens. Markings are made on it making it easy to set the radiation points. It is bolted to the table during radiation. My husband, Jerry, had trouble with the mask because he is claustrophobic. He asked if they could cut holes where his eyes were. They did that and he was more comfortable

I've asked Jerry to explain the process he experienced in 1999 during the making the mask, in his own words:

  The radiation techs took me to a 'fitting room'. They had a frame which was horseshoe shaped that had plastic mesh attached to it. They heated this until the mesh was soft. They then lowered the frame and mesh over my face and head stretching the mesh tightly and molding it to the contour of my face and head.

Once the mesh hardened I asked if they could cut holes for my eyes, to reduce my feeling of claustrophobia. They did. They then put tape on the mask and did a simulation to mark the radiation reference points. These are clear in the picture of the mask. These markings were changed at least once during the radiation treatment. You can see that the marks on the two pictures (one below) don't match.

  When I would arrive for treatment, they would have me lie down on the table. The techs would get the mask, put it on and bolt it to the table. Being from a fire service background I asked what the procedure would be if the fire alarm went off. They promised to unbolt me before they left! Since the radiation points were marked, it only took a few minutes for each of my radiotherapy appointments.

I hope this explains a little about the 'masking process', for those of you who are considering this as part of your treatment.