Providence Opens Clinical Trial on Device to Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

May 24, 2016

Oral, head and neck cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the world. Physicians will diagnosis more than 100,000 cases in the United States this year alone. Treatments can stretch over years, and have difficult side effects. One common result of the disease and its treatment is trismus, the decreased ability to open the mouth. Trismus can affect everything from speaking to eating. It can have a profound impact on the health and quality of life of a cancer survivor.

Amber Watters, DDS, a dental oncologist with Providence Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Program and Clinic, has opened a clinical study of a device that could lessen the effects of trismus, even in patients years or decades out from their diagnosis and treatment.

“We know trismus can occur, at least temporarily, in more than 90 percent of patients treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy and radiation,” said Dr. Watters. “In some people the problem becomes chronic.

“This trial will help determine if early intervention will improve outcomes related to trismus in patients with head and neck cancers.”

A recent study showed early intervention helped participants increased their mouth opening by an average of 7 mm. This may seem small, but can make a big difference in limitation of oral function and quality of life after cancer treatment.

Trismus results from scar tissue created by radiation and surgery. Many oral, head and neck cancer patients can develop the condition very early in their treatment.

Providence Portland Medical Foundation is supporting the clinical trial with a $21,300 grant, which will be used to purchase 100 Orastretch devices for participants.

Patients in the trial will receive the dynamic jaw stretching device and will use it for a set number of exercises over a scheduled period of time. They will be followed by Dr. Watters and a speech therapist to gauge the success of the device.

Oral, head and neck cancers arise in such areas as the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, thyroid glands, throat or larynx. Symptoms may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice.

For more information on the trismus study, please call 503-215-1676.