AFTER CANCER: AFTEREFFECTS INVOLVING THE HEAD AND NECK

What If My Eyes, Nose, and Mouth Are Dry?

Dryness can be due to

• radiation- or chemo-induced changes in the glands that supply moisture to these areas

• medication effect

•an immune disorder that damages or destroys the glands that supply moisture to these areas

What If It Is Hard to Swallow?

Difficulty in swallowing after cancer treatment can be due to

• dry mouth

• injury to the nervous control of swallowing •radiation changes to the mouth, throat, and/or esophagus

• infection in the esophagus

Short-term radiation changes will usually resolve within a few weeks to months of completing therapy. Permanent scarring of the esophagus can occur months to years following radiation to the chest (mediastinum). This delayed scarring can cause narrowing, called stricture, of the esophagus, which is treated with dilations by a gastroenterologist (a doctor specializing in diseases of digestion).

Infections (viral, fungal) are usually quite painful and require treatment aimed at eradicating the infection.

Can Cancer Treatment Cause Cataracts?

Cataracts are common in otherwise healthy people over sixty-five years old. They can occur earlier and more frequently following

• radiation to the eye

•long-term exposure to steroids (corticosteroids, or cortisone-type drugs, such as prednisone)

Why Does Food Sometimes Taste Different after Cancer Treatment?

Treatment of head and neck cancers can result in temporary or permanent alteration in taste due to

• changes in the tongue

• diminished or absent smell sensation

• diminished saliva

• effect of medication

What Is Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw?

This is a serious complication of radiation to the jaw and is due to bone infection. High-dose radiation to the jaw causes permanent changes that render the bone unable to respond normally to infection in the gums or teeth. This problem has become uncommon as techniques of delivering radiation have improved and attention has been given to proper care of teeth. You can prevent this complication by

• getting frequent (every three to four months) high-quality dental care

• brushing properly and flossing regularly

•seeing your dentist at the first sign of swelling of the gums or the first hint of pain in your gums or a tooth

What Are Radiation Caries?

This is an aggressive form of dental caries (cavities in the teeth) that occurs after radiation to the head and neck. Because it is usually painless, it can, if not picked up by frequent dental exams, progress to such a point that the teeth cannot be salvaged. It is caused by changes in the quality of the saliva, as well as by decreased quantities of saliva.

How Can I Prevent Radiation Caries?

You can help prevent radiation caries by

• having frequent dental exams

• practicing meticulous oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) •applying topical fluoride every day

• eating a healthy diet

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