Effects of chemoradiotherapy on voice and swallowing


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Abstract

Purpose of reviewChemotherapy has been found to result in comparable survival rates to surgery for head and neck cancer. However, toxicity can often be worse after chemoradiotherapy, with impairment in voice, swallowing, nutrition, and quality of life. Investigators are attempting to modify radiotherapy treatment regimens to spare organs that have an impact on swallowing. This review will highlight voice and swallowing impairment seen after chemoradiotherapy, as well as treatment for voice and swallowing disorders in this population. Results of newer radiotherapy regimens will also be highlighted.Recent findingsSpecific oropharyngeal swallowing motility disorders after chemoradiotherapy have been identified. Damage to specific structures has been correlated with specific pharyngeal phase swallow impairment. Swallowing function and quality of life have been examined over time, with improvement seen in both. Preventive/prophylactic swallow exercise programs have been encouraging. Chemoradiotherapy effects on voice have been identified in terms of acoustic, aerodynamic, and patient and clinician-rated perception of function. Improvement in voice has also been observed over time after chemoradiotherapy. Voice therapy has been found to have a positive impact on voice and perceptual measures in this population.SummaryCurrent studies show some improvement in swallow function after swallow and voice therapy in patients treated with chemoradiotherapy. Further, there is a suggestion of improved swallow function with sparing of organs with specific radiotherapy protocols. Future research needs to focus on specific voice and swallow treatment regimens in the head and neck cancer patient treated with chemoradiotherapy, specifically, timing, frequency, duration, and specific treatment types.

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