Almost half of all patients with cancer of the voice box (larynx) who receive radiotherapy treatment will experience malnutrition, according to new data presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology's Symposium on Cancer and Nutrition (Zurich, 20-21 March 2009).
Larynx cancer is one of the most common head and neck cancers, with 159,000 new cases and 90,000 deaths reported worldwide each year.
"The risk of larynx cancer is greatly increased by tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption," says researcher Jacqueline Langius from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. "Populations at high risk are therefore those where both habits are common."
Langius and colleagues studied 238 patients with early stage laryngeal cancer who received radiotherapy, a standard form of treatment. They found that 44% of patients developed malnutrition, which researchers defined as a weight loss of at least 5%.
The sub-group of patients whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in their neck--or who were at high risk of such spread--were also treated with irradiation on their neck lymph nodes. In the study almost half of patients (48%) received irradiation on the neck nodes. The researchers found that these patients were more than four-times as likely to become malnourished.
Malnutrition has been linked to a wide range of physical and clinically relevant side-effects in cancer patients, including an impaired response to treatment, adverse reactions and reduced quality of life. Consequently, preventing weight loss is important.
"Malnutrition is an underestimated problem in patients with early stage larynx cancer who receive radiotherapy," Jacqueline Langius says. "To prevent malnutrition, nutritional support should be offered to all patients who receive nodal irradiation."
Ideally, dietary counselling should be offered by a trained dietician, Langius says.
Notes to Editors
About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)
The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is a non-profit organization which promotes medical oncology and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment. ESMO is a community of oncology professionals that unites key stakeholders who share the common objective of preventing cancer, fostering a favourable environment for scientific research, and advocating for equal access to high quality cancer treatment. As the leading European professional medical oncology society, ESMO offers state-of-the-art educational and training programs which provide the oncology community with a platform to disseminate the most up-to-date scientific research and information available. ESMO's scientific journal, Annals of Oncology, ranks among the top clinical oncology journals worldwide. ESMO is an authoritative voice in the fight against cancer and offers consultative expertise to oncology organizations and European authorities on important issues related to cancer research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
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