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Factors linked to speech/swallowing problems after treatment for head and neck cancers
Date:12/20/2010

DURHAM, NC Most patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers who successfully complete treatment with chemotherapy and radiation manage to do so without losing the ability to speak clearly and swallow comfortably, according to researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute.

"This is good news," said Joseph K. Salama, MD, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at Duke and the corresponding author of the study. "I hope it brings some comfort to newly-diagnosed patients who are understandably worried about what long-term effects treatment might involve."

The study findings appear in the Dec. 20 issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 70,000 people will develop some form of head and neck cancer in the coming year. The malignancies are regarded as some of the most burdensome because they can be so disruptive to normal pleasures of life such as talking and eating. In addition, surgical treatment can dramatically alter facial structure, striking at the most visible aspect of identity.

"Surprisingly, there are few studies of this size and duration that have followed these patients and documented in detail factors that alter their functional status after organ preserving therapy," said Salama.

Working with colleagues at the University of Chicago, Salama conducted a retrospective study of 184 patients with advanced but treatable head or neck cancers enrolled in a phase II trial. All received about two months of chemotherapy with carboplatin and paclitaxel and then additional chemotherapy along with radiation over a ten-week period. Some of the patients also underwent minor surgery to remove simple tumors or lymph nodes in their necks.

Using a four-point scale, researchers evaluated the patients' ability to speak and swallow anywhere from six weeks to six years after all treatments had ended. The average time that patients
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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
michelle.gailiun@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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