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New radiotherapy approach reduces symptoms of dry mouth in patients with head and neck cancers
Date:4/20/2013

Geneva, Switzerland: Researchers have shown for the first time that it is possible to reduce the distressing symptoms of dry mouth in patients treated with radiotherapy for head and neck cancers if the radiation dose to a salivary gland (called the submandibular gland) on the opposite side to the tumour is kept to the minimum.

The largest study yet to show a correlation between radiation doses to the submandibular glands and their output of saliva was presented today (Saturday) at the 2nd Forum of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO). As a result of the findings, the researchers from The Netherlands say that guidelines for the recommended maximum dose can be issued for use in clinical practice to benefit patients.

The submandibular glands are two salivary glands beneath the lower jaw, one on the left and one on the right. These are mainly responsible for producing saliva while we are at rest and during the night. The parotid glands are another pair of glands that produce saliva when we are eating. Patients with tumours in the areas of the mouth and throat are usually treated with radiotherapy, but the treatment can adversely affect the functioning of the salivary glands, leading to xerostomia or dry mouth. Around 40% of patients treated for head and neck cancers suffer from xerostomia in the long term, which causes problems with eating, sleeping, speech, tooth loss and oral hygiene, leading to diminished quality of life, social isolation and difficulty in continuing work. Attempts to treat xerostomia and its consequences can cost hundreds or even thousands of Euros per patient per year and are not very effective. The key, therefore, is prevention.

Associate professor, Dr Chris Terhaard, a radiation oncologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands, set out to see whether it would be possible to deliver Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) [1] to tumours with the intention of sparing the s
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Contact: Emma Mason (media enquiries only)
wordmason@mac.com
European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO)
Source:Eurekalert

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