Changing trends in head and neck cancer (HNC) merit an understanding of the late effects of therapy, but few studies examine dysphagia beyond 2 years of treatment.A case series was examined to describe the pathophysiology and outcomes in dysphagic HNC survivors referred for modified barium swallow (MBS) studies = 5 years after definitive radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy (January 2001 through May 2011). Functional measures included the penetration-aspiration scale (PAS), performance status scale-head and neck (PSS-HN), National Institutes of Health Swallowing Safety Scale (NIH-SSS), and MBS impairment profile (MBSImp).Twenty-nine patients previously treated with radiotherapy (38%) or chemoradiotherapy (62%) were included (median years posttreatment, 9; range, 5-19). The majority (86%) had oropharyngeal cancer; 52% were never-smokers. Seventy-five percent had T2 or T3 tumors; 52% were N+. The median age at diagnosis was 55 (range, 38-72). Abnormal late examination findings included: dysarthria/dysphonia (76%), cranial neuropathy (48%), trismus (38%), and radionecrosis (10%). MBS studies confirmed pharyngeal residue and aspiration in all dysphagic cases owing to physiologic impairment (median PAS, 8; median NIH-SSS, 10; median MBSImp, 18), whereas stricture was confirmed endoscopically in 7 (24%). Twenty-five (86%) developed pneumonia, half requiring hospitalization. Swallow postures/strategies helped 69% of cases, but no patient achieved durable improvement across functional measures at last follow-up. Ultimately, 19 (66%) were gastrostomy-dependent.Although functional organ preservation is commonly achieved, severe dysphagia represents a challenging late effect that may develop or progress years after radiation-based therapy for HNC. These data suggest that novel approaches are needed to minimize and better address this complication that is commonly refractory to many standard dysphagia therapies.
View details for DOI 10.1002/cncr.27631
View details for Web of Science ID 000311306000010
View details for PubMedID 23640737