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BioMed Research International
Volume 2016, Article ID 6086894, 24 pages
Review Article

Dysphagia, Speech, Voice, and Trismus following Radiotherapy and/or Chemotherapy in Patients with Head and Neck Carcinoma: Review of the Literature

1Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, Netherlands
2College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia
3Kantonsspital Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
4School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
5Department of Family Medicine, School of Health Professions Education (SHE), Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, Netherlands
6Speech Pathology Service, Gold Coast Health, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
7Discipline of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Received 27 May 2016; Accepted 1 August 2016

Academic Editor: Kenneth W. Altman

Copyright © 2016 B. J. Heijnen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Introduction. Patients with head and neck cancer suffer from various impairments due to the primary illness, as well as secondary consequences of the oncological treatment. This systematic review describes the effects of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy on the functions of the upper aerodigestive tract in patients with head and neck cancer. Methods. A systematic literature search was performed by two independent reviewers using the electronic databases PubMed and Embase. All dates up to May 2016 were included. Results. Of the 947 abstracts, sixty articles met the inclusion criteria and described one or more aspects of the sequelae of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Forty studies described swallowing-related problems, 24 described voice-related problems, seven described trismus, and 25 studies described general quality of life. Only 14 articles reported that speech pathologists conducted the interventions, of which only six articles described in detail what the interventions involved. Conclusion. In general, voice quality improved following intervention, whereas quality of life, dysphagia, and oral intake deteriorated during and after treatment. However, as a consequence of the diversity in treatment protocols and patient characteristics, the conclusions of most studies cannot be easily generalised. Further research on the effects of oncological interventions on the upper aerodigestive tract is needed.