Evaluation, prevention and management of radiotherapy-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients

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Abstract

Purpose of review

As part of the multidisciplinary approach to head and neck cancer patients, radiation therapy plays an essential role, improving locoregional control. Radiation therapy-induced xerostomia is a late side-effect that increases the risk for developing dental caries and compromises oral mucosal integrity, resulting in oral pain, loss of taste, difficulties with swallowing and chewing, sleep disorders and worse quality of life. This review focuses on evaluation, prevention and management of radiation therapy-induced xerostomia.

Recent findings

In terms of xerostomia prevention, some clinical trials evaluating amifostine and intensity-modulated radiation therapy have shown positive results. Pilocarpine is a useful agent as a treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients.

Summary

Despite some advances in radiation therapy-induced xerostomia prevention, its treatment is an area in which advances are urgently needed.

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