The prevalence of patient-reported dysphagia and oral complications in cancer patients.

Research paper by Jacqui J Frowen, Rhys R Hughes, Jemma J Skeat

Indexed on: 09 Mar '20Published on: 17 Jun '19Published in: Supportive Care in Cancer


Research investigating swallowing problems (dysphagia) and complications within the oral cavity in non-head and neck cancer patients is limited. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of patient-reported dysphagia and oral complications in all cancer patients and to examine the relationships between cancer types, oral complications and dysphagia. A cross-sectional study was conducted at a specialist cancer centre in Australia. Data on patient-reported dysphagia and oral complications were collected using the Vanderbilt Head and Neck Symptom Survey (version 2.0) which was completed by participants in one of three settings: inpatients, ambulatory patients receiving chemotherapy, or ambulatory patients receiving radiotherapy. Data were collected on 239 patients, receiving treatment for 14 cancer types. The proportion of patients who reported dysphagic symptoms were as follows: any dysphagia (54%); dysphagia for liquids (20%); and dysphagia for solids (46%). Significantly more head and neck patients and significantly fewer breast patients reported dysphagia, but there were no differences between other tumour types. Oral symptoms across all cancer types were reported at the following rates: taste changes (62%); xerostomia (56%); voice changes (37%); smell changes (35%); thick mucous (33%); difficulty with teeth/dentures (25%); mouth/throat pain (20%); and trismus (19%). This is the first time comprehensive data on dysphagia and oral complications across all cancer patients have been collected. We have identified that dysphagic symptoms and oral complications-which have implications for quality of life and function-are common in all cancer patients, not just those with head and neck cancer.