Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Am J Clin Oncol


Background: Head and neck cancer treatment modalities can significantly impact functional outcomes of patients, especially oral intake (Brizel, et al N Engl J Med 1998; Kamal, et al Support Care Cancer 2019). Radiation therapy in particular has been associated with posttreatment xerostomia and dysphagia (Adelstein, et al J Clin Oncol 2003; Hutcheson, et al Cancer 2013) which can affect quality of life and impair weight gain, contributing to worse long-term outcomes (Payakachat, et al Head Neck, 2013). Early speech-language pathology intervention has shown to be effective in improving these functional outcomes in this population (Greco, et al Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2018).

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to evaluate oral intake outcomes of patients undergoing definitive radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Methods: A cohort of patients with stage III or IV squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, larynx, and hypopharynx treated with definitive radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy were extracted from system database. Patients with evidence of distant metastases were excluded. Swallow function was assessed both pre- and post-treatment (within four months of treatment initiation or conclusion) with the Functional Oral Intake Scale (FOIS) (Crary et al, Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2005) as measured by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) involved in the patient's care. Body mass index (BMI) was evaluated within four months of treatment initiation and one year after treatment completion. The use of enteral feeding at one-year post-treatment was also assessed. Data was analyzed with descriptive statistical methods, Wilcoxon sign rank tests, and [chi]2d tests.

Results: The sample included 152 patients. Table 1 highlights patient baseline characteristics, tumor location, and treatment. FOIS scores decreased from pre-treatment to post-treatment, with 75% of patients having a FOIS of 7 at pre-treatment compared with only 13.8% at the post-treatment time point (Table 1). Median BMI also decreased from pre-treatment to one-year post-treatment (Table 2). At one-year post-treatment, 23.7% patients (n=33) required enteral feeding.

Conclusions: Definitive radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy in the treatment of head and neck cancer is associated with impaired oral intake. Treatment is also associated with decreases in BMI and longer use of enteral feeding, which may reflect sequelae of impaired oral intake. These factors have a negative impact on quality of life and can lead to long-term morbidity. Integrative treatment plans would therefore benefit from speech-language pathology interventions throughout the treatment process.





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