Throat cancer patients appear to benefit from continuing to eat and doing swallowing exercises while undergoing radiation treatment or chemotherapy, researchers say.
Radiation treatment can interfere with a person’s ability to swallow, but performing swallowing exercises can help patients prevent weakness that can occur after periods of not swallowing.
The new study included nearly 500 patients treated for throat cancer between 2002 and 2008. Of the 58 percent of patients who followed swallowing exercises, 74 percent were able to maintain eating at the end of their treatment, the investigators found.
In addition, eating and doing swallowing exercises during the treatment period were linked to better long-term diets after treatment ended and less time relying on a feeding tube, according to the study, which was published online Sept. 19 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery.
Long-term swallowing outcomes were best in patients who continued eating throughout radiation treatment or chemotherapy and followed their swallowing-exercise regimen, said Katherine Hutcheson, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and colleagues. Outcomes were worst in patients who did not eat or do swallowing exercises.
Nearly 14,000 new cases of throat cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, the study authors said in a journal news release.
SOURCE: JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, news release