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Head Neck. 2002 Aug;24(8):737-47.

Patients with head and neck cancer cured by radiation therapy: a survey of the dry mouth syndrome in long-term survivors.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital Rotterdam-Daniel, Groene Hilledijk 301, 3075 EA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



Xerostomia can have a significant impact on the quality of life of patients treated by radiation therapy (RT) for cancer in the head and neck. The first aim of the study was to evaluate the degree of xerostomia in 39 long-term survivors treated between 1965-1995 by conventional two-dimensional radiation therapy and currently without evidence of disease. The second aim was to develop a concise instrument to evaluate the subjective aspects of xerostomia.


A newly developed questionnaire and a visual analog scale (VAS) were used in analyzing the degree of dry mouth and xerostomia-related problems. The radiation dose received by the major salivary glands was estimated by analyzing two-dimensional simulation films.


Sixty-four percent of the patients experienced a moderate to severe degree of xerostomia. In the multivariate analysis, three questions regarding dry mouth, eating, and speech were particularly discriminatory for establishing the degree of xerostomia as expressed by the VAS score.


In this survey, 64% of the long-term survivors, after treatment by conventional two-dimensional radiation therapy for a malignancy in the head and neck region, still experienced a moderate to severe degree of permanent xerostomia. A simplified instrument to evaluate xerostomia subjectively can consist of the VAS score and three graded questions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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