Chemo-and-radiation therapies make head-and-neck cancer patients feel as if they have been drinking scalding coffee for weeks. Anticipating that the treatment may later cause difficulty swallowing, doctors usually order a temporary feeding tube through the stomach wall. This however sometimes can cause more difficulty with swaloowing.
But UAB head-and-neck surgeon William R. Carroll, M.D., and colleagues began noticing that feeding tube patients were reporting more trouble swallowing than those who continued to eat and drink throughout therapy. "The observation led us to develop a clinical protocol with us, gastroenterologists, and speech pathologists to help keep throat muscles active during treatment. Measures include swallowing exercises before treatment and throughout radiation, and afterward planned dilation procedures when strictures occur." A prospective trial to study benefit is pending approval.