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Correlations Between Patient-Reported Dysphagia Screening and Penetration-Aspiration Scores in Head and Neck Cancer Patients Post-oncological Treatment.

Journal article
Authors Johanna Hedström
Lisa Tuomi
Caterina Finizia
Caroline Olsson
Published in Dysphagia
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 206-215
ISSN 1432-0460
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Radiation Physics
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Pages 206-215
Language en
Subject categories Otorhinolaryngology


Dysphagia is a common and severe toxicity after oncological treatment of head and neck cancer (HNC). The study aim was to investigate relationships between patient-reported dysphagia and clinically measured swallowing function in HNC after modern curative radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy to identify possible alarm symptoms for clinically manifest dysphagia. Patients with tumors of the tonsil, base of tongue, hypopharynx, and larynx treated in 2007-2015 were assessed for dysphagia post-treatment by telephone interview and videofluoroscopy (VFS). A study-specific categorized symptom score was used to determine patient-reported dysphagia (DESdC = presence of Drinking, Eating, Swallowing difficulties, and Coughing when eating/drinking (any combination); scores between 0 and 4 with 0 = no symptom); the penetration-aspiration scale (PAS) to determine swallowing function by VFS. Swallowing difficulties were defined as DESdC ≥ 1 and PAS ≥ 2. Relationships between clinically relevant cut-offs for DESdC and PAS were determined by Pearson's correlation coefficient (Pr). Swallowing difficulties according to DESdC were reported by 89% of the patients and according to PAS by 60% at a median of 7 months post-treatment. Averaged correlations between DESdC score 1/2/3/4 and PAS were 0.16/0.10/0.27/0.18. Almost one in two patients with DESdC score ≥3 had severe swallowing difficulties according to PAS. Correlations between individual DESdC:s were highest for swallowing and eating (Pr = 0.53) and lowest for swallowing and coughing (Pr = 0.11). Our data suggest that if a patient reports having swallowing difficulties, it is likely that he or she also has eating difficulties but not necessarily coughing problems when eating/drinking. However, if all these three symptoms are reported, it is likely that the patient will present with moderate or severe impaired swallowing function according to PAS and thus should be referred for further evaluation and treatment.

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