Prophylactic Swallow Therapy for Patients with Head and Neck Cancer Undergoing Chemoradiotherapy: A Randomized Trial

Barbara Pisano Messing, Elizabeth C. Ward, Cathy L. Lazarus, Melissa Kim, Xian Zhou, Jessica Silinonte, Dorothy Gold, Karen Harrer, Karen Ulmer, Samantha Merritt, Geoffrey Neuner, Marshall Levine, Ray Blanco, John Saunders, Joseph Califano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Evidence supporting prophylactic swallow exercises for patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) has not been universally demonstrated. This RCT examined diet level, feeding tube use, swallow function, and quality of life (QOL) of patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy who performed prophylactic swallowing exercises. Sixty HNC patients were randomized into exercise versus control groups. Swallowing, oromotor, toxicity, and QOL data were recorded (baseline, 3, 6, 12, 24 months). Physiological swallow function was examined at baseline and 3 months. Swallow exercises were completed twice daily. Oral intake at 3 months was 10% better in the exercise group, which was not statistically significant (p = 0.49). Significant (p < 0.05) differences in secondary outcomes including oromotor function, pharyngeal impairment, oral pharyngeal swallow efficiency, and incisal opening were noted at early time points (3–6 months) in the exercise group. Possible positive early improvements in swallow function are associated with swallowing exercises, although these improvements are not significant longer term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-500
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Chemoradiation
  • Dysphagia
  • Prophylactic exercises
  • Quality of life
  • Swallowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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