Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Conditions Affected By Both Chemotherapy and Head / Neck Radiation

Salivary Gland Hypofunction and Xerostomia

Radiation therapy can damage salivary glands, causing salivary hypofunction and xerostomia. (Refer to the Oral Complications of Head and Neck Radiation section of this summary for more information.) In addition, selected chemotherapeutic agents (singly or in combination) have been implicated in causing salivary dysfunction and xerostomia.[1] However, it has not been possible to draw consistent conclusions about the effects of cancer chemotherapy on salivary gland function.[2]

Recommended Related to Cancer

What is Prevention?

Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. In 2014, about 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. In addition to the physical problems and emotional distress caused by cancer, the high costs of care are also a burden to patients, their families, and to the public. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer is lowered. Hopefully, this will reduce the burden of cancer and lower the number of deaths caused by cancer. Cancer...

Read the What is Prevention? article > >

Dysphagia

Dysphagia and odynophagia are common in cancer patients and can exist before, during, and after treatment:

  • Dysphagia predisposes to aspiration and potentially life-threatening pulmonary complications.[3]
  • Swallowing disorders may lead to unfavorable dietary changes and decreased oral intake, which may result in dehydration, malnutrition, delayed wound healing, and decreased resistance to infection.
  • Tube feeding may become necessary, which may further compromise swallowing.
  • Opioids administered for the management of odynophagia may cause xerostomia and constipation.
  • Difficulties with speaking, eating and drinking, or drooling may affect mental health and put patients and family members in social isolation.

All of these problems, plus the patient perception of swallowing difficulties, significantly decrease health-related quality of life.[3,4]

Dysphagia is most prominent in patients with head and neck cancers but may also develop in patients with other malignancies as a symptom of oropharyngeal or esophageal mucositis or infection. In addition, dysphagia can be associated with graft-versus-host disease.

The prevalence and severity of pretreatment dysphagia associated with head and neck tumors depend on tumor stage and localization.[5] Pretreatment dysphagia is most prevalent in patients with pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers.[6] Surgical interventions for head and neck tumors result in anatomic or neurologic insults with site-specific patterns of dysphagia.[7] In general, the larger the resection, the more swallowing function will be impaired.

The severity of radiation-induced dysphagia depends on the following:[8]

  • Total radiation dose.
  • Fraction size and schedule.
  • Target volumes.
  • Treatment delivery techniques.
  • Concurrent chemotherapy.
  • Genetic factors.
  • Feeding status (via percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy [PEG] tube or nil per os [NPO, nothing by mouth]).
  • Smoking status.
  • Psychological coping factors.

Intensified schedules and the use of chemoradiation therapy have been shown to improve locoregional control and survival but come at the cost of more severe acute and chronic side effects. Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) has emerged as an effective technique to deliver the full radiation dose to the tumor and regions at risk while reducing exposure of surrounding healthy tissues. However, the preservation of anatomy does not necessarily translate into the preservation of swallowing function.[9]

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article