Comprehensive assessment of xerostomia in patients receiving radiation for head and neck cancer
Purpose: Xerostomia is a well known complication of radiation for head and neck cancer. It causes significant impairment of Quality Of Life (QOL).Comprehensive assessment is possible with the help of scintigraphy, Dose-volume histogram (DVH) parameters as well as QOL questionnaire.
Methods: Thirty patients of head and neck cancer undergoing radiation were assessed for xerostomia. Scintigraphic assessment of parotid gland function was done before and at six weeks after radiation. QOL questionnaire was administered before, during, and at six weeks after radiation as well as at two years of follow up. Dose received by parotids were correlated with scintigraphic and QOL outcomes.
Results: Mean parotid gland volume and dose received were 24.9 cc and 45.3 Gy respectively. Mean Salivary Excretion Factor (SEF) decreased from 54.1 to 12 at six weeks after radiation. QOL scores worsened from first week (mean value: 2.37) of radiotherapy (RT) to fourth week (mean value: 15.50, p < 0.0000) , remained same till completion of RT (mean value: 17.57, p = 0.1063) and at six weeks after radiation (mean value:16.10, p = 0.2519 ). There was a significant decrease in QOL scores between post RT six weeks versus two years follow up (p < 0.0000). Mean parotid dose and QOL scores correlated at six weeks (p < 0.0000), whereas no correlation was found between SEF and QOL.
Conclusion: Comprehensive assessment of parotid gland function with Scintigraphy, QOL questionnaire and its correlation with dose volume parameters is helpful in quantifying xerostomia. Even though radiation induced xerostomia persisted for a long time after radiation, it did not translate to decreased QOL.
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