OBJECTIVES: Oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. Focus on risk factors, improved diagnostic methods and effective management strategies have made it possible to successfully treat OPC. However, the 5-year survival rate has not improved for several years due to multiple treatment complications, tissue morbidity, loss of function, and diminished quality of life. Survivors are faced with complications like oral mucositis, hyposalivation, osteoradionecrosis, tissue fibrosis, morbidity from jaw resection, disfigurement, and loss of function that further diminish quality of life. The aim of this review is to highlight major complications associated with treatment of OPC via a literature search and review of available options for identification and management of these complications.
DATA SOURCES: Relevant publications on oral complications of OPC therapy were thoroughly reviewed from the literature published between the years 1988 and 2012. We evaluated reported incidence, prevalence, and risk factors for oral complications of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for OPC. The authors conducted an electronic search using English language databases, namely PubMed Plus, Medline (Pre-Medline and Medline), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (evidence-based medicine), Dentistry & Oral Sciences Source, A ccessScience, Embase, Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews Multifile, Google Scholar, ISI Journal Citation Reports, and Ovid Multi-Database.
CONCLUSION: We identified the most common complications associated with the treatment of oral cancers. Based on the information gathered, there is evidence that survival of OPC extends beyond eradication of the diseased tissue. Understanding the potential treatment complications and utilizing available resources to prevent and minimize them are important. Caring for OPC survivors should be a multidisciplinary team approach involving the dentist, oncologist, internist, and social worker to improve the currently stagnant 5-year survival rate of OPC. More emphasis on improved quality of life after elimination of the cancer will ultimately improve OPC survivorship.