Oral Health and Quality of Life Following Radiotherapy for Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

AS McMillan

Hong Kong J Radiol 2003;6:75-7

Aim: To describe the oral health condition and its psychosocial and functional impact among disease-free patients following radiotherapy for nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Patients and Methods: In this cross-sectional study, patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma who remained disease-free more than 1 year post-radiotherapy, newly diagnosed patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and age- and gender-matched controls completed the Oral Health Impact Profile, the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey, and a dry mouth scale comprising 5 questions. The clinical measures made included degree of mouth opening, candidiasis, mucositis, xerostomia, dental caries index and periodontal indices, and saliva collection.

Results: Thirty eight survivors of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, 40 newly diagnosed patients, and 31 controls aged from 31 to 77 years (mean age, 49.3 years) took part in the study. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma survivors had significantly higher negative impacts for 11 of 49 Oral Health Impact Profile statements than did the 2 other groups (p < 0.05) and lower scores in the physical functioning domain of the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey subscale (p = 0.02). Significantly more nasopharyngeal carcinoma survivors had negative impacts associated with subjective symptoms of dry mouth, sticky saliva, and hoarse voice compared with newly diagnosed patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma and controls (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: The impact of prevailing oral conditions was significantly greater for survivors of nasopharyngeal carcinoma compared with the other groups. New, intensity-modulated radiotherapy regimens and radioprotectants are being tested to minimise radiotherapy-related harmful effects on oral health and health-related quality of life.