A definitive trial has indicated that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) reduces the occurrence of canker sores and improves quality of life in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) who are undergoing concurrent chemoradiotherapy.

Almost all patients with HNSCC develop canker sores resulting from different modalities of treatment.

No effective preventive strategy is currently available for canker sores, but prospective trials of LLLT in patients with HNSCC undergoing chemoradiotherapy showed promising results.

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The trial, led by Héliton Spindola Antunes, DDS, MSC, PhD, at the Brazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was conducted with 94 patients with HNSCC undergoing chemoradiotherapy. One group of 47 patients received LLLT, and the other 47 patients received a placebo.

Only three patients receiving LLLT developed severe canker sores, whereas 19 patients in the placebo group developed severe canker sores. In the LLLT group, 59.6% of patients were free of canker sores compared with 21.3% in the placebo group. The LLLT group had less severe oral pain and, as a result, used fewer opioid analgesics. They were also less likely to require gastrostomy throughout the cancer treatment.