Swallowing exercises helped patients being treated with radiation for head and neck cancers to lessen the side effects.
Patients using the swallowing exercises were less likely to need a feeding tube or suffer a narrowing of the throat passage.
In the past surgery and radiation were the common treatment for head and neck cancer but improved chemotherapy means that many types of this disease are treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation called “chemoradiation” in the hope of preserving the tissue and structure.
Even with the improved treatment patients do not always retain their ability to swallow naturally and normally and swallowing difficulty is one of the most common unwanted side effects.
In the study at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer centre under Dr Marilene Wang patients had swallow therapy before during and after radiation treatment.
The exercises were designed to maintain the range of motion of mouth and neck muscles involved in swallowing and counter the formation of excess tissue caused by the treatment.
Patients who used the exercises had a faster return to normal diet and a lower incidence of narrowing the throat passage.
“The real benefit of this compliance is that patients benefit immediately after treatment and for a prolonged time afterward” said Dr Wang
The study was published online by the journal Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery.