Preservation of oral health-related quality of life and salivary flow rates after inverse-planned intensity- modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for head-and-neck cancer

Matthew B Parliament, Rufus A Scrimger, Stephanie G Anderson, Elizabeth C Kurien, Heather K Thompson, G Colin Field, John Hanson
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2004 March 1, 58 (3): 663-73

PURPOSE: To assess whether comprehensive bilateral neck intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for head-and-neck cancer results in preserving of oral health-related quality of life and sparing of salivary flow in the first year after therapy.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Twenty-three patients with head-and-neck cancer (primary sites: nasopharynx [5], oral cavity [12], oropharynx [3], and all others [3]) were accrued to a Phase I-II trial. Inverse planning was carried out with the following treatment goals: at least 1 spared parotid gland (defined as the volume of parotid gland outside the planning target volume [PTV]) to receive a median dose of less than 20 Gy; spinal cord, maximum 45 Gy; PTV(1) to receive a median dose of 50 Gy; PTV(2) to receive a median dose of 60 Gy (postoperative setting, n = 15) or 66-70 Gy (definitive radiotherapy setting, n = 8). Treatment was delivered with 6 and 15 MV photons using a "step-and-shoot" technique on a Varian 2300 EX linac with 120-leaf Millenium MLC. Unstimulated and stimulated whole-mouth salivary flow rates were measured, and patients completed the University of Washington instrument (UWQOL) and a separate xerostomia questionnaire (XQOL) in follow-up.

RESULTS: Early functional outcome end point data are available at the 1-, 3-, and 12-month follow-up time points for 22, 22, and 18 patients, respectively. The combined mean parotid dose was 30.0 Gy (95% confidence interval: 26.9-33.1). The differences from baseline in mean overall UWQOL scores at 1, 3, and 12 months postradiotherapy were -0.24, 0.32, and 4.28, not significantly different from zero (p = 0.89, p = 0.87, p = 0.13). None of the UWQOL individual domain scores related to oral health (pain, eating-chewing, eating-swallowing, and speech) at 1, 3, or 12 months were significantly different from baseline. Both unstimulated and stimulated whole-mouth flow was variably preserved. Unstimulated salivary flow at 1 and 12 months was inversely correlated with combined mean parotid dose (p = 0.014, p = 0.0007), whereas stimulated salivary flow rates at 3 and 12 months were also correlated with combined mean parotid dose (p = 0.025, p = 0.0016). Combined maximum parotid dose was correlated with unstimulated flow rate at 12 months (p = 0.02, r = -0.56) and stimulated flow rate at 1 and 12 months (p = 0.036, r = -0.45; p = 0.0042, r = -0.66). The proportion of patients reporting total XQOL scores of 0 or 1 (no or mild xerostomia) did not diminish significantly from baseline at 1, 3, or 12 months (p = 0.72, p = 0.51, p = 1.0). Unstimulated and stimulated flow at 1 month was inversely correlated with total XQOL score at 12 months (p = 0.025, p = 0.029).

CONCLUSIONS: Oral health-related quality of life (HRQOL) was highly preserved in the initial 12 months after IMRT, as assessed with separate, validated instruments for xerostomia-specific quality of life and oral HRQOL. In general, patients with better-preserved unstimulated salivary flow rates tended to report lower xerostomia scores. Whole-mouth salivary flow rates post IMRT were inversely correlated with combined mean parotid doses. Longer follow-up is required to assess to what extent HRQOL is favorably maintained.

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