Swallowing function after chemoradiation for advanced stage oropharyngeal cancer

Samuel G. Shiley, Christopher A. Hargunani, Judith M. Skoner, John Holland, Mark K. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Advanced-stage oropharyngeal cancer may be treated either surgically or nonsurgically. We reported previously functional outcomes after surgical resection with free-tissue transfer. In the present study, we evaluated swallowing function after combined chemoradiation for oropharyngeal cancer. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Retrospective review of 30 patients treated at a tertiary academic center for Stage III/IV oropharyngeal cancer with sequential or concurrent chemoradiation from 1994 to 2003. RESULTS: Inclusion criteria were met by 27 of 30 (90%) patients. Most patients had base of tongue lesions (67%) and Stage IV disease (93%). Gastrostomy was carried out in 22 (82%) patients either before or during treatment. Three months after chemoradiation, 33% (9/27) were consuming all nutrition orally, 22% (6 of 27) were NPO, and 45% (12 of 27) had some oral intake but still required tube feeds. One year after treatment, 53% (10 of 19) had an exclusively oral diet whereas 47% still required tube feeds including 1 patient (5%) who was NPO. In patients without recurrence and follow-up length >1 year, 69% (9 of 13) were consuming all nutrition orally whereas 31% still required gastrostomy tube (G-tube) support. A higher rate of G-tube dependence was observed in patients treated for base of tongue lesions vs tonsil lesions (67% vs 25%, P = 0.049, χ2 analysis). CONCLUSIONS: At this institution, the short-term (3-4 months) rate of G-tube dependence was similar after surgical and non-surgical treatment of oropharyngeal cancer. One year after chemoradiation, 31% of patients without recurrence still required tube feeds. SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that organ-preservation protocols do not reduce the prevalence of chronic dysphagia and G-tube dependence after management of oropharyngeal cancer. EBM rating: C-4

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-459
Number of pages5
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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