Purpose: Dysphagia is a debilitating complication in head and neck cancer patients (HNCPs) that may cause a high mortality rate for aspiration pneumonia. The aims of this paper were to summarize the normal swallowing mechanism focusing on its anatomo-physiology, to review the relevant literature in order to identify the main causes of dysphagia in HNCPs and to develop recommendations to be adopted for radiation oncology patients. The chemotherapy and surgery considerations on this topic were reported in recommendations only when they were supposed to increase the adverse effects of radiotherapy on dysphagia. Materials and methods: The review of literature was focused on studies reporting dysphagia as a pre-treatment evaluation and as cancer and cancer therapy related side-effects, respectively. Relevant literature through the primary literature search and by articles identified in references was considered. The members of the group discussed the results and elaborated recommendations according to the Oxford CRBM levels of evidence and recommendations. The recommendations were revised by external Radiation Oncology, Ear Nose and Throat (ENT), Medical Oncology and Speech Language Pathology (SLP) experts. Results: Recommendations on pre-treatment assessment and on patients submitted to radiotherapy were given. The effects of concurrent therapies (i.e. surgery or chemotherapy) were taken into account. Conclusions: In HNCPs treatment, disease control has to be considered in tandem with functional impact on swallowing function. SLPs should be included in a multidisciplinary approach to head and neck cancer.
- Head and neck cancer
- Radiation oncology
- Swallowing dysfunction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging