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Understanding Radiation-Induced Xerostomia

Author: Rheta Mankin
by Rheta Mankin
Posted: Oct 27, 2015
radiation treatments

Xerostomia sounds little ominous, but cancer patients who have undergone radiation treatments might better know it as "dry mouth." This condition is a rather common side effect of radiation treatments given during the treatment of head and neck cancers, but may also present in other cases, as well.

The good news is that in many instances, xerostomia, although highly troublesome, is temporary. That means normal salivary flow is likely to return in the weeks and months after treatment has ceased. For those who have head and neck cancers, however, it is possible that radiation has damaged salivary glands. If this is the case, the condition may be permanent. A doctor will have to make the determination.

Doctors do have some treatments available to help relieve the symptoms of xerostomia, especially if they become rather troublesome. For some cancer patients, for example, xerostomia may lead to painful mouth sores that require treatment to help prevent improper nourishment during recovery. When treatment is required, doctors can sometimes use medications to stimulate saliva or offer products that moisturize the mouth.

ALTENS may also offer some patients relieve. This is an acupuncture-like electrical nerve treatment that can help stimulate salivary function. A recent study was conducted that involved 146 patients. The group was split in half with one portion receiving ALTENS and the other undergoing pilocarpine medication treatment. When the study was completed, 96 of the original patients remained. Researchers ultimately found that patients in the ALTENS group had consistently better results than those in the medication group.

Radiation-induced xerostomia is a common and bothersome side effect. Patients who are concerned about dry mouth are urged to discuss treatment options with their healthcare providers. There are ways to ease the discomfort associated with this condition. The best course of treatment, however, will depend on the severity and the particular case at hand.

About AuthorLewisville/Flower Mound Oncology Group, a division of Choice Cancer Care – is an independently owned and operated oncology practice that is completely focused on unique, comprehensive patient care.

About the Author

Lewisville/Flower Mound Oncology Group is a division of Choice Cancer Care – a group of clinics devoted across the board to combining exceptional medical care with compassionate, individualized patient care.

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Author: Rheta Mankin

Rheta Mankin

Member since: Jul 02, 2015
Published articles: 6

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