Head and Neck cancer
Patients with oral, oropharyngeal, pharyngeal, nasopharyngeal, sinus, laryngeal carcinoma, adenocarcinoma of the salivary glands and other carcinomas, who receive radiotherapy alone or with chemotherapy, may develop complications in the mouth, the jaw bones, the temporomandibular joint and the salivary glands during or after the completion of the oncological therapy.
We aim to help you understand what to expect during your radiotherapy and what may be the possible chronic complications. This understanding can enhance our collaboration to plan the best preventive strategy of your individual problems.
Oral complications which develop during radiotherapy
Oral mucositis: Oral mucositis presents as painful ulcerations, with difficulties in food intake and drinking. Patient may lose weight.
Fungal infections: Candidiasis is the most common infection during radiotherapy.
Viral infections: Herpes presents as painful ulcerations, which may worsen the pain and the severity oral mucositis.
Bacterial infections: Dental and periodontal abscesses often develop in patients, who do not maintain good oral hygiene and which had dental and periodontal problems, not treated before the initiation of therapy.
Xerostomia (dry mouth): Saliva is reduced and becomes thick and sticky. Xerostomia has a significant adverse effect on all the oral functions, chewing, swallowing, taste, speaking. Xerostomia is a risk factor for the development of oral candidiasis and dental caries.
Complications which develop after the completion of radiotherapy
Xerostomia: The mouth is dry with difficulties in food and liquid intake, problems with speech and communication with family and problems at work. The patient does not sleep well, feels tired and unhappy and becomes malnourished and dehydrated.
Dental caries: Rampant dental caries is related to the dry mouth.
Infections of the oral mucosa: Candidiasis is the most common oral infection.
Taste disturbances, fibrosis and mucosal atrophy, trismus, dysphagia: Taste disturbances, fibrosis of the oral tissues and the neck, reduced the mouth opening and trismus and problems of the temporomandibular joint are significant chronic complications.
Patient has problems with mastication, food intake and swallowing and the performance of oral hygiene.
Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw bones: Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw bones is associated with infection and pain. It is most common in patients with poor oral health.
Good oral hygiene, keeping the oral mucosa moist and clean, will reduce the severity of oral complications in radiotherapy.