Research Article| Volume 58, ISSUE 9, e51-e56, November 2020

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How much of a problem is too much saliva for patients following head and neck cancer


      The aim of this paper is to report the clinical characteristic of those patients reporting “I have too much saliva” following treatment for head and neck cancer. As a new addition to the saliva question of the University of Washington quality of life questionnaire (UW-QoL), another aim is to make recommendations on how this new option should be scored and handled. Patients treated with curative intent were recruited between April 2017 and October 2019. Assessment was at the first baseline clinic a median (IQR) of 194 (125–249) days after diagnosis and 103 (71–162) days after the end of treatment. Patients completed the modified UW-QoL version 4, the Patient Concerns Inventory (PCI), Distress Thermometer, and the EQ-5D-5L. In 288 patients, saliva was of normal consistency for 80 (28%), less than normal but enough for 57 (20%), too little for 91 (32%), too much for 45 (16%), and there was no saliva at all for 15 (5%). Of patients with too much saliva, two-thirds (31/45, 69%) had tumours located in the oral cavity and 18/40 (45%) had the highest rates of free flap use during surgery. Salivation response was associated strongly with the other measures of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and the PCI. Of those with too much saliva their results were similar to or worse than those with too little or no saliva at all. In conclusion, having too much saliva is relatively less frequently reported but is an important HRQoL consideration. Its scoring in the UW-QoL should be at a level similar to that of too little saliva.


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