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Prophylactic swallowing exercises for patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

Roe, Justin WGa,b; Ashforth, Kate Ma

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: June 2011 - Volume 19 - Issue 3 - p 144–149
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283457616
Speech therapy and rehabilitation: Edited by Paul Carding

Purpose of review Oncological treatment outcomes in head and neck cancer suggest both acute and longer-term oropharyngeal dysphagia. Studies have been published exploring the potential to improve swallowing outcomes using more targeted treatment modalities such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and through the introduction of swallowing exercises prior to treatment. In this article, we will explore the literature relating to prophylactic swallowing exercises for patients undergoing (chemo-)radiotherapy.

Recent findings Recent studies have attempted to evaluate the benefit of prophylactic, pretreatment swallowing exercises for patients undergoing (chemo-)radiotherapy. We identified three peer-reviewed published studies which present data on the potential benefit of exercise. Only one randomized control trial which includes multidimensional swallowing evaluation with instrumental measures has been published. Authors of all the reviewed studies agree that randomized control trials including baseline measures are required with longitudinal follow-up.

Summary More research is required to complement oncological clinical trials evaluating the impact of prophylactic exercise on swallowing outcome. Multidimensional swallowing evaluation including instrumental and patient-reported measures should be conducted pretreatment and longitudinally to develop the evidence base for intervention in patients undergoing organ-preserving treatment protocols.

aThe Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK

bThe Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK

Correspondence to Justin W.G. Roe, Research Speech and Language Therapist, Head and Neck Unit, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Fulham Road, London SW3 6JJ, UK Tel: +44 207 808 2815; fax: +44 207 808 2336; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.