The prevalence of Dysphagia among head and neck cancer patients in tertiary public hospitals in Malaysia

Med J Malaysia. 2021 Nov;76(6):837-844.


INTRODUCTION: Dysphagia is the most common problem among head and neck cancer patients. It can occur before, during, and/or after cancer treatment due to cancer growth or side effects from cancer treatment. To date, the data on the prevalence of dysphagia in Malaysia is very limited. Therefore, the present study aimed to examine the prevalence and contributing factors of dysphagia.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 240 patients (mean age 53.1, 167 males and 73 females) from Hospital Kuala Lumpur and the National Cancer Institute were enrolled in this research. All patients were interviewed individually in which they completed a thorough case history and swallowing screening test, including the water swallow test.

RESULTS: The results revealed that 43.3% of patients had dysphagia. In multivariate logistic regression, occupation of the patients was found to be associated with dysphagia, i.e., working in service and sales sector (adjusted Odds Ratio, aOR=0.36, 95% Confidence Interval, 95%CI: 0.13, 0.99). Compared to patients without treatment, those who had chemoradiotherapy (aOR=4.45; 95%CI: 1.10, 17.99) were at an increased odd of developing dysphagia.

DISCUSSION: This study showed that occupation, cancer stage, and type of treatment received by the head and neck cancer patients were crucial factors associated with the development of dysphagia. These findings guide the clinicians in identifying head and neck cancer patients who are at greater risks of developing dysphagia.


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