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Assessment and management of dysphagia in patients with head and neck cancer who receive radiotherapy in the United Kingdom - A web-based survey

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Carding


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We undertook a service evaluation to establish how oropharyngeal dysphagia is managed in head and neck cancer patients receiving radiotherapy in the United Kingdom. A web-based survey including 23 open and closed questions was distributed to Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) teams via a national network of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) special interest groups with members involved in head and neck cancer care. Forty-six teams responded to the survey and 89% completed the questionnaire fully. Fifty percent (n = 21/42) of the SLT teams reported routinely seeing patients prior to commencing radiotherapy. Baseline oromotor assessment (85.7% (n = 36/42)), clinical dysphagia assessment (90.5% (n = 38/42)) and information provision on the potential treatment effects on swallowing (97.6% (n = 41/42)) and communication ability (85.7% (n = 36/42)) were the most common components of initial evaluation. In keeping with expert opinion and emerging evidence, prophylactic swallowing exercises were administered by 71.4% (n = 30/42) of teams targeting specific aspects of swallowing, although the nature, intensity and duration of programmes varied. A range of measures are used to monitor progress during treatment. Our survey highlighted that resource limitations affect service provision with some teams managing the consequences of treatment rather than proactive multidisciplinary intervention prior to and during treatment. Cancer- and treatment-related dysphagia can impact significantly on a broad range of outcomes following radiotherapy. There is variability in dysphagia service provision to patients before, during and following treatment. Comprehensive evaluation of swallowing function prior to treatment and proactive management can yield benefits for patients, inform multidisciplinary case management and support those involved in clinical trials to accurately determine treatment effects. (C) 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roe JWG, Carding PN, Rhys-Evans PH, Newbold KL, Harrington KJ, Nutting CM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Oral Oncology

Year: 2012

Volume: 48

Issue: 4

Pages: 343-348

Print publication date: 29/11/2011

ISSN (print): 1368-8375

ISSN (electronic): 1741-9409

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2011.11.003


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Funder referenceFunder name
Institute of Cancer Research
Oracle Cancer Research Trust
C46/A10588Cancer Research UK Section of Radiotherapy [CRUK]