Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012 Aug 1. [Epub ahead of print]
Definitive chemoradiation therapy has evolved as the preferred organ preservation strategy in the treatment of locally advanced head-and-neck cancer (LA-HNC). Dry mouth and dysphagia are among the most common and most debilitating treatment-related toxicities that frequently necessitate the placement of enteral feeding tubes (FT) in these patients to help them meet their nutritional requirements. The use of either a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube or a nasogastric tube, the choice of using a prophylactic vs a reactive approach, and the effects of FTs on weight loss, hospitalization, quality of life, and long-term functional outcomes are areas of continued controversy. Considerable variations in practice patterns exist in the United States and abroad. This critical review synthesizes the current data for the use of enteral FTs in this patient population and clarifies the relative advantages of different types of FTs and the timing of their use. Recent developments in the biologic understanding and treatment approaches for LA-HNC appear to be favorably impacting the frequency and severity of treatment-related dysphagia and may reduce the need for enteral tube feeding in the future.
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