The radiation mask is a symbol of head and neck cancer even though lots of patients have surgery only. It’s an immobilisation mask to keep the head still for the precise delivery of radiation to the tumour while sparing neighbouring tissue.
It is NOT popular with patients because it bolts you down on a table for around 25 minutes a day and is associated with claustrophobia and the painful side effects of radiation or chemoradiation.
It used to be worse though as you can see from the picture above. It was a rigid mask of clear perspex and took hours of preparation over two days. The green thermoplastic mask you can also see here takes only one visit of 45 minutes.
The words on the green mask are from our Facebook group – their uncensored memories of the mask. My smiling face is because I’m holding a mask as a prop. And to tell the truth I’m grateful to the mask for giving me the chance of extra life.
Read here for a detailed and interesting account of the old days before the 1980s when the Perspex mask was the rule. They wondered if patients would tolerate the new mask but, while still unpopular, it was an advance.
What is the future of the mask?
“Possibly using 3D printing technique to make a very accurate mask off a CT scan virtually without the patient needing to be there. Still some way off.” Dr Andrew Macann, Auckland radiation oncologist.
Sydney University has the following project to “Remove the mask”.