Acupuncture eases radiation-induced dry mouth
Acupuncture twice a week may relieve weakening symptoms of severe dry mouth among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer.
Acupuncture twice a week may relieve weakening symptoms of xerostomia or severe dry mouth
among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer
Xerostomia develops after the salivary glands have been exposed to repeated doses of radiation treatment
. People who have cancers of the head and neck typically receive large cumulative doses, rendering salivary glands incapable of producing adequate saliva.
The symptoms can include altered taste acuity, dental decay, infections
of the tissues of the mouth, and difficulty with speaking, eating and swallowing.
Saliva substitutes, lozenges and chewing gum bring only temporary relief, and the commonly prescribed medication, pilocarpine, has short-lived benefits and bothersome side effects of its own.
To see if acupuncture could reverse xerostomia, researchers from America identified 19 patients with xerostomia who had completed radiation therapy at least four weeks earlier. The patients were given two acupuncture treatments each week for four weeks.
The twice-weekly acupuncture treatments produced highly statistically significant improvements in symptoms. Measurement tools included the Xerostomia Inventory, asking patients to rate the dryness of their mouth and other related symptoms; and the Patient Benefit Questionnaire, inquiring about issues such as mouth and tongue discomfort; difficulties in speaking, eating and sleeping; and use of oral comfort aids.
A quality-of-life assessment conducted at weeks five and eight showed significant improvements over quality-of-life scores recorded at the outset of the study.
Acupuncture treatment promises effective management of xerostomia, a common side effect of radiation treatment of head and neck cancers.
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