Swallowing exercises proven to help patients with head and neck cancers

Patients who have received chemoradiation therapy (CRT) for head and neck cancer can experience short-term improvement in their swallowing through practising specific swallowing exercises during the therapy and at weekly follow-up sessions although the researchers found no difference in the swallowing ability in the long-term.

The authors, publishing in the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, found that both patients who did and patients who did not practise swallowing exercises had the same swallowing scores on the Functional Oral Intake Scale (FOIS) at nine and twelve months after treatment but the group who were given five specific swallowing exercises during their CRT had a significantly greater score on the FOIS after three and six months.

The study, conducted at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, USA, showed that swallowing exercises result in a faster recovery to normal function and indeed, some cancer treatment centres recommend swallowing exercises as standard for patients undergoing CRT. The authors have warned however, that this was a small study and a larger study is needed to “…provide a more powerful analysis of the effect of prophylactic swallowing exercises on patients with [head and neck cancer] treated with CRT.”

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