Dr Villa on the Incidence of Oral Toxicities in Patients With Head and Neck Cancer

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Alessandro Villa, DDS, PhD, MPH, discusses the incidence of oral toxicities in patients with head and neck cancer.

Alessandro Villa, DDS, PhD, MPH, chief, Oral Medicine, Oral Oncology, Dentistry, Miami Cancer Institute, Baptist Health, discusses changes in the incidence of oral toxicities in patients with head and neck cancer.

The management of oral complications arising from cancer treatment is crucial for improving quality of life (QOL) for patients with head and neck cancers, Villa begins. Any patients with this diagnosis who are scheduled to undergo radiation therapy should see a dental specialist for dental screening, Villa emphasizes. Dental screenings prior to and during radiation therapy are essential for preventing odontogenic infections and mitigating the risk of developing oral complications, he explains.

Furthermore, the advent of new chemotherapeutic drugs and immunotherapy for patients within this population has brought both promise and challenges, Villa continues. Although these treatments have improved patient outcomes, they also contribute to an increase in oral complications such as oral mucositis, lichenoid-like lesions, and severe dry mouth, he outlines. Villa adds that such complications can have a significant impact on patients' QOL, affecting their ability to eat, speak, and maintain proper oral hygiene. Additionally, conditions such as hyposalivation and dryness of mouth can lead to the development of secondary issues such as dental caries and oral candidiasis, creating further complications, Villa notes.

Managing these oral complications requires a multidisciplinary approach involving dental specialists, oncologists, and supportive care teams. Regular screenings, proactive measures, and targeted interventions can help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications during and after cancer therapy, Villa states. Ongoing research efforts are focused on developing new medications and treatment strategies to address these challenges. Clinical trials are evaluating novel therapies aimed at preventing and managing oral mucositis and other treatment-related complications, offering hope for improved outcomes and enhanced quality of life for patients with oral cancer.

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