Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Familial Support During Chemoradiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer

By: Joseph Fanelli
Posted: Monday, October 28, 2019

For patients undergoing chemoradiation therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer, providing relief from xerostomia and involving family members during treatment were listed as important aspects for patients moving through therapy to recovery, according to study results published in BMC Nursing. The study, which featured interviews from patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer in Jakarta, Indonesia, found that “adequate family support” proved to be a critical coping mechanism for patients, noted Sri Yona, PhD, of the University of Indonesia, and colleagues.

“It [is] recommended that nurses should provide appropriate education to minimize ongoing adverse effects and support the use of effective coping mechanisms, including involving family member during chemoradiation therapy,” the authors concluded.

The investigators employed a phenomenologic approach, conducting in-depth interviews with 11 patients diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer over a 6-month period. All study patients had received external chemoradiation at least 14 times. Patients were interviewed face-to-face by investigators in tape-recorded sessions.

In the interviews, the authors identified three main themes. First, xerostomia was the mostly widely experienced side effect of chemoradiation. Second, the patients described decreased social interactions during therapy. Third, receiving support from family members gave patients more emotional support and “extra motivation” to continue treatment.

All participants who experienced xerostomia noted a decrease in salivary production, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing food and even fluids, and a constant thirst. The patients also reported a “decrease in self-confidence” after undergoing treatment and a feeling of insecurity because of physical changes caused by the treatment. These effects led patients to withdraw and spend more time alone. As a result of the effects of treatment, patients identified support from family members as a critical factor in their recovery.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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