Xerostomia is the subjective symptom of a dry mouth, rand is a common side effect of radiotherapy treatment particularly to the salivary glands. Xerostomia can negatively affect a patient’s quality of life. It may lead to difficulty in mastication and swallowing, as well as altered taste, speech and dental decay.
Radiotherapy induced damage to the salivary glands can lead to changes in the volume and consistency of secreted saliva (hyposalivation).r
Xerostomia secondary to radiotherapy induced salivary damage can affect a significant proportion of patients with head and neck malignancy treated with radiotherapy.r
Xerostomia commences early during radiation treatment, with salivary flow decreasing initially by 50-60% within the first week.r Salivary function can continue to decline for the remainder of treatment, and for 6-8 months after.r Complete recovery from radiation induced xerostomia can range from 12 months to five years.r However, it can develop into an irreversible life-long symptom.
There are multiple risk factors that predispose to the development of xerostomia. These risk factors can include but are not limited to:
- radiation therapy to the salivary glands
- radiation dose fractionation technique
- concomitant chemotherapy.