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Pain, dry mouth may play role in sleep quality of head and neck cancer patients
Date:7/11/2010

life, including pain, sleep health, eating and respiratory problems. The subjects were then surveyed again one year after diagnosis.

Among those surveyed, it was found that sleep quality did not change dramatically from the time of diagnosis to one year after treatment. But quality of sleep at both time points was worse than typical sleep scores for the average person. The researchers suggest that the relatively minor change in sleep quality one year after diagnosis may be due to symptoms and side effects from treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Results of the study currently appear in the online version of the journal The Laryngoscope.

"Head and neck cancer patients have a high prevalence of pain compared to other cancer sites and pain is associated with insomnia. Pain is often correlated with depression among cancer patients, and the majority of depressed patients report some sleep disturbances," says Terrell. "Additionally, radiation therapy to treat head and neck cancer can contribute to dry mouth, which requires excessive drinking and urination throughout the night."

Based on their findings, the study authors recommend intensity-modulated radiation therapy techniques that treat head and neck cancer but avoid destroying saliva-producing glands, a practice that U-M specializes in. This method significantly reduces the severity of permanently dry mouth, which can be a significant complication of radiation to treat head and neck cancer.

The researchers also note the importance of recognizing depression during or after head and neck cancer treatment. Given the high incidence of dry mouth as a side effect of certain drugs that treat depression, doctors should carefully consider which medications may be better tolerated when treating these ailments among head and neck cancer patients.

"It's imperative for patients to work with physicians to determine a cause of the sleep disorder
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Contact: Tara Hasouris
tarahaso@umich.edu
734-734-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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