PhD project: Mathilde Aalling

Dysphagia and quality of life in patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma before and after treatment

Oral cavity cancer (OCC) is treated by surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. The predominant symptom during and after treatment is impaired swallowing function, i.e. dysphagia, which can lead to reduced quality of life (QoL), malnutrition, dehydration, aspiration pneumonia, re-admission to hospital and reduced survival. The incidence of OCC is slightly increasing while the survival rate is improving. Thus, more knowledge is warranted about the late effects of OCC treatment in a growing population of cancer survivors. 

There are limited data on functional outcomes for the group of patients with OCC. In a pilot study it was found that 45% of patients reported significant eating disabilities two years after treatment. The Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS) is considered the gold standard test for instrumentally evaluating swallowing function, but the method and interpretation has only recently been standardized, which now allows for comparison between studies.

The overall goal of the project is to improve the QoL and health status in patients treated for OCC by introducing systematic evaluation of the swallowing function in order to facilitate a more targeted follow-up and rehabilitation.