JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Palliative effectiveness of radiation therapy in the treatment of superior vena cava syndrome.

A study was made of 34 patients concerning the palliation effect of radiation therapy in the treatment of superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS). They were seen between 1986-1993, at the Department of Radiotherapy in Middelheim General Hospital, Belgium, Antwerp. All patients had a syndrome of superior vena cava obstruction secondary to malignancy. The histologic diagnosis delivered an equal distribution of small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). All patients with a SCLC received chemotherapy as initial treatment, but showed no response, relapse or evolution during treatment. Each treatment began with rapid-high dose irradiation, to continue after re-evaluation with rapid high-dose in cases of poor response or with the conventional fractionation of 2 Gy daily in patients showing good relief of symptoms. The initial rapid-high dose schedules depended on the performance status of the patients. Seventy-six percent of the patients with NSCLC showed good relief of their symptoms. It was very unexpected but the majority of NSCLC patients responded more quickly than SCLC patients, within three days after initiating treatment. In SCLC, 94% of the patients responded up until death. The palliation index defined as the ratio of the symptom-free period on the total survival which is 1 in ideal circumstances, was 0.55 in NSCLC and 0.90 in SCLC. In this last group, death was mainly due to disease progression in distant sites.

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