(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Patients who perform prophylactic swallowing exercises after undergoing chemoradiation therapy (CRT) for head and neck cancer had improved swallowing function at 3 and 6 months but not immediately after treatment or at 9 or 12 months, a study in the April 2012 issue of Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery has found.

Investigators at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York randomized 13 patients to perform five targeted swallowing exercises throughout CRT and participate in weekly swallowing therapy sessions; the control group comprised 13 additional patients who received no swallowing exercises and were referred for swallowing treatment after completion of CRT if indicated.

The authors found no statistically significant differences in swallowing scores on the Functional Oral Intake Scale (FOIS) between the intervention group and control group immediately following CRT. Additionally, no statistically significant differences in Eating in Public subscale scores were observed between the intervention and control groups.

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However, patients in the intervention group showed significantly better scores on both scales at 3 and 6 months following treatment which, at 9 and 12 months, were no longer significant.

“The small sample size may have limited our ability to detect significant differences beyond 6 months of observation as well as additional significant differences in our study,” the authors noted. “Continued study with a larger sample size is needed to expand on these findings and provide a more powerful analysis of the effect of prophylactic swallowing exercises on patients with HNC [head and neck cancer] treated with CRT.”