A new study involving patients with oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) showed that patients had significant weight decreases over the course of a year following OPC treatment, regardless of whether or not they received nutrition by feeding tube (FT). Swallowing-related quality of life (QOL) was also diminished in these patients. The study was published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

The single-center study was based on an analysis of electronic health records from 122 patients with OPC who received treatment with chemoradiotherapy or radiotherapy alone. Patients were evaluated at 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment for weight and swallowing-related metrics. Analyses were performed with respect to whether or not patients received nutritional support by feeding tube.

A total of 38 patients (31.1%) were given feeding tubes for nutritional support. The feeding tubes were used for a mean duration of 207 days (range, 44 to 1016) in these patients, with placement happening at a median of 5.1 weeks after treatment began.

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Patients in both the FT group and non-FT group experienced significant weight loss at 3 and 6 months after treatment, with only the non-FT group also showing significant weight loss at 12 months. In the FT group, the percentages of patients with clinically meaningful weight loss compared with baseline were 31.6% at 3 months, 15.0% at 6 months, and 14.3% at 12 months. In the non-FT group, these rates were 50.0%, 40.5%, and 35.0%, respectively, at the same time points.

Swallowing-related QOL metrics showed that significant negative impacts occurred more with the non-FT group than with the FT group in the short-term.

“The present study highlights important differences in outcomes related to weight and swallowing-related QOL for those with OPC based on [feeding tube] placement,” the study authors wrote in their report. They also noted that sufficient nutrition and weight maintenance are important factors in patient prognosis.


Jovanovic N, Dreyer C, Hawkins S, et al. The natural history of weight and swallowing outcomes in oropharyngeal cancer patients following radiation or concurrent chemoradiation therapy. Support Care Cancer. Published online August 1, 2020. doi:10.1007/s00520-020-05628-1