Quality of life and oral function following radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

Authors

  • Joel B. Epstein DMD, MSD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Dentistry, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4E6
    • Department of Dentistry, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4E6
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  • Sue Emerton CDA,

    1. Department of Dentistry, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4E6
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  • Dean A. Kolbinson DMD, MSD,

    1. Department of Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences, College of Dentistry, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
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  • Nhu D. Le PhD,

    1. Cancer Control Research Unit, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Norm Phillips MA, MSc,

    1. Department of Dentistry, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4E6
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  • Peter Stevenson-Moore BDS, LDSRCS, MSD, MRCD(C),

    1. Department of Dentistry, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4E6
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  • David Osoba MB, FRCRPC

    1. Quality of Life Program, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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Abstract

Background

Multiple oral complaints occur following radiotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer, but the frequency and severity of symptoms of dysfunction and discomfort are not well understood. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the quality of life, oral function, and oral symptoms following radiotherapy.

Methods

A general quality of life survey (the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer [EORTC] Quality of Life Questionnaire QLQ-C30), with an added oral symptom and function scale was mailed to 100 patients more than 6 months following radiotherapy.

Results

Sixty-five patients responded. Difficulty chewing or eating was reported by 43% of respondents. Dry mouth was reported by 91.8%, change in taste by 75.4%, dysphagia by 63.1%, altered speech by 50.8%, difficulty with dentures by 48.5%, and increased tooth decay by 38.5% of dentate patients. Pain was common (58.4%) and interfered with daily activities in 30.8%. Mood complaints were reported by approximately half the patients. Interference of the physical condition social activities was reported by 60%. The frequency of oral side effects correlated with radiation treatment fields and dose.

Conclusion

Oral complications following radiotherapy for head and neck cancer are common and affect quality of life. Use of a general function scale such as the EORTC questionnaire with the addition of disease/site specific scales may provide useful data on outcome of therapy and upon the complications associated with therapy and impact upon the quality of life. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Head Neck 21: 1–11, 1999.

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