A study looking at people with head and neck cancer who have difficulties with eating and drinking

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Laryngeal cancer
Mouth (oral) cancer
Nasal and paranasal sinus cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer
Pharyngeal cancer
Salivary gland cancer

Status:

Results

Phase:

Other

This study looked at whether cognitive behavioural therapy and swallowing therapy can help people with eating and drinking problems. 

It was for people with eating and drinking difficulties caused by head and neck cancer and its treatment.

More about this trial

People with head and neck cancer often have difficulties with eating and drinking. This is called dysphagia.

Treatment for dysphagia is usually swallowing therapy. It uses a range of techniques such as swallowing exercises that are tailored to your specific problem. A speech and language therapist Open a glossary item usually helps you with this.

Living with dysphagia can make people feel anxious or with low confidence. It can affect their ability to socialise. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to help people with their mood. It works by identifying and changing unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. 

In this study, researchers wanted to find out whether combining CBT with swallowing therapy could help people with dysphagia. 

The main aim of this study was to develop a treatment that combined CBT and swallowing therapy. And to find out whether it was acceptable to people.

Summary of results

The research team found that combining CBT with swallowing therapy might help people with head and neck cancer with eating and drinking problems. But this was a small study, so doctors need to do more research to find out for sure.   
 
This study was open for people to join between 2012 and 2014, and published these results in 2018. 
 
About this study
Researchers found 50 people who were eligible to take part in this feasibility study. But only 30 people agreed to join. Most people that didn’t took part said this was because of problems with attending hospital appointments. 
 
Everyone completed treatment for head and neck cancer between 1 and 6 months before joining this study. 
 
The research team asked everyone who took part to attend up to 10 sessions of CBT and swallowing therapy with a speech and language therapist. The speech and language therapist received CBT training before the start of this study. Each session was tailored and took between 45 minutes to one hour to complete. 
 
Results
Of the 30 people who agreed to take part, 25 people completed the tailored CBT and swallowing therapy sessions. 
 
Researchers looked at how well the sessions worked. To do this, they asked everyone to complete questionnaires:
  • before the start of CBT and swallowing therapy
  • at the end of CBT and swallowing therapy
  • 3 months after finishing the therapy
The questionnaires asked people about:
  • their perceptions of eating and drinking
  • their quality of life Open a glossary item
  • whether they were anxious or felt depressed
  • their diet and ability to swallow
  • whether they felt tired
  • how their social and work life was affected 
Researchers found that people’s quality of life, ability to swallow and fatigue levels improved after the CBT and swallowing therapy sessions. 
 
Researchers also asked people what they thought about this therapy. Overall, people were happy with:
  • the way they were referred to the CBT and swallowing therapy (the referral process)
  • the time each session took
  • the number of sessions 
Some people mentioned that they would have preferred to start the therapy sooner after treatment for head and neck cancer. And others mentioned that they would have liked to continue attending the sessions. 
 
Conclusion
The research team concluded that this treatment was acceptable to most people. And that this might help people with eating and drinking problems after treatment for head and neck cancer. They also concluded that this therapy benefits some people more than others. 
 
The researchers suggest further studies to confirm whether this therapy is effective in helping people with eating and drinking problems. There are a number of questions they would like to answer. For example, they would like to know whether speech and language therapists are willing to receive CBT training and can give this type of treatment.    
 
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Joanne Patterson

Supported by

NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Sunderland Royal Hospital

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

11317

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

Rate this page:

No votes yet
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think