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Clinical Challenges
February 2003

Xerostomia Prevention After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Author Affiliations




Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003;129(2):250-251. doi:10.1001/archotol.129.2.250

Xerostomia is a serious problem that impacts patients' quality of life negatively. Salivary gland dysfunction impairs mastication, deglutition, and gustation while heightening the susceptibility of the oral hard and soft tissues to a variety of destructive processes. Drs Nagler and Baum have presented a good summary of the theories of salivary gland irradiation damage and a comprehensive review of the pharmacologic manipulation used in preserving salivary function during radiation. The concept of gene transfer is intriguing but it is unlikely to be of clinical use for many years. There are, however, numerous methods presently available to the clinician that effectively preserve salivary function and, in some patients, prevent posttreatment xerostomia. These methods can be broadly classified into 3 categories: chemoprevention, parotid gland sparing, and submandibular and sublingual gland sparing.

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