Also known as dry mouth, xerostomia occurs when salivary glands stop working. University of Alberta researcher Jana Rieger likens the feeling of xerostomia to the experience of the after-effects of having surgery and anesthetic—but the feeling is permanent.
While the importance of healthy saliva glands may be an afterthought for some patients when battling cancer, the long-lasting effects create a number of problems for them when they are in remission.
"We need saliva to keep our mouths healthy," said Rieger. "Without saliva, people can lose their teeth, dentures don't fit properly and the ability to swallow and speak is severely altered."
The study conducted by Rieger, a speech language pathologist in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, looked at functional outcomes—speech changes, swallowing habits and the quality of life of patients with mouth and throat cancers—as they received two different types of treatments prior to and during radiation.
The first group of patients underwent the submandibular gland transfer. This method was pioneered by Hadi Seikaly and Naresh Jha at the University of Alberta in 1999. The transfer involves moving the saliva gland from under the angle of the jaw to under to the chin. Prior to this procedure, the saliva gland was in line for the radiation. Seikaly says, "Most patients, when they are cured from cancer, complain of one major thing: dry mouth."
The second group in the study took the oral drug salagen. Rieger says, "Studies have shown in the past that if this drug was taken during radiation, it might protect the cells in the salivary glands."
According to the study findings, both groups had the same results in terms of being able to speak properly but where the main difference was in swallowing. The group taking the drug had more difficulty.
Rieger said, "This group needed to swallow more, and it took a longer time to get food completely out of their mouth and into the esophagus. Because they had trouble eating, they may become nutritionally comprised."
This leads to a host of other problems. Dry mouth causes one to drink large volumes of water, which leads to numerous trips to the bathroom. Difficulty swallowing causes issues with eating food while it's still hot and it takes the patients a long time to complete a meal.
As a result of these problems, Rieger found the quality life for most patients decreased significantly. "People suffering from xerostomia no longer want to go out eat and be in social settings. Consuming water to quench dry mouth means they have difficulty in getting a good night's sleep. Some become depressed and avoid going out."
Based on this study, the authors hope to encourage patients to have the submandiublar gland transfer as a preventative treatment for xerostomia prior to radiation for mouth and throat cancers.
Seikaly and Jha, as well as Jeffery Harris from the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry along with Judith A. Lam in Rehabilitation Medicine, also contributed to the study, which was published in Head & Neck in April 2011.
Sandra Pysklywyc | EurekAlert!
Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center
Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma
17.01.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.01.2018 | Awards Funding