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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 37-43

Impact of early dysphagia intervention on swallowing function and quality of life in head and neck cancer patients treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy or image guided radiation therapy with or without surgery/chemotherapy

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, Dysphagia Unit, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, India
3 Department of E.N.T., Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rajender Kumar
Department of Radiation Oncology, Max Cancer Center, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, New Delhi - 110 017
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2454-6798.165109

Clinical trial registration 2012/10/004082

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Introduction: Dysphagia is a very common problem associated with head and neck cancer patients. Inspite of best of technologies like Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) or Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT), Dysphagia remains a major problem in locally advanced head and neck cancer patients. Materials and Methods: We randomized 50 head and neck cancer patients, including all sites and stages into two groups, 25 patients in each group. In Group-A dysphagia prevention exercises were done from the day of the onset of radiation therapy and continued till 6 months, while in Group-B no dysphagia interventions were given. We analyzed rate of dysphagia, aspiration rate and its impact on quality of life. We used M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI) which is a validated and reliable questionnaire designed specifically for evaluating impact of dysphagia on quality of life (QOL) in head and neck cancer patients. American Speech language Hearing Association (ASHA) scale was used for assessing swallowing function. Penetration Aspiration Scale (PAS) was used to assess aspiration during swallowing with the help of Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). Results: Quality of life was significantly better in dysphagia preventive exercise arm (group - A). There was significant improvement in the MDADI score, from the baseline to 6 months in exercise arm (14 versus 7.76, p= 0.017). Swallowing function score was also in favour of exercise arm (6.44 versus 5.8, p=0.002). Patients in exercise arm were able to swallow much better by the end of 6 months post radiotherapy. Risk of silent aspiration as evaluated by PAS score at the end of three months was 36% (Group A = 16%, Group B = 20%). At the end of six months, it improved to 24% (Group A = 8%, Group B = 16%). There was a trend towards lesser incidence of aspiration in exercise arm, although it was not statistically significant (p=0.21). Conclusion: Results from this study demonstrated that swallowing exercises, if administered from first week of chemo-radiation and continued till 6 months, results in significant improvement in swallowing function and quality of life. Use of FEES helps in detection of silent aspiration at an early stage and reduces aspiration related morbidities.

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