Purpose: This systematic review aimed to assess the literature for prevalence, severity, and impact on quality of life of salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia induced by cancer therapies.
Methods: The electronic databases of MEDLINE/PubMed and EMBASE were searched for articles published in English since the 1989 NIH Development Consensus Conference on the Oral Complications of Cancer Therapies until 2008 inclusive. Two independent reviewers extracted information regarding study design, study population, interventions, outcome measures, results and conclusions for each article.
Results: The inclusion criteria were met by 184 articles covering salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia induced by conventional, 3D conformal radiotherapy or intensity-modulated radiotherapy in head and neck cancer patients, cancer chemotherapy, total body irradiation/hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, radioactive iodine treatment, and immunotherapy.
Conclusions: Salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia are induced by radiotherapy in the head and neck region depending on the cumulative radiation dose to the gland tissue. Treatment focus should be on optimized/new approaches to further reduce the dose to the parotids, and particularly submandibular and minor salivary glands, as these glands are major contributors to moistening of oral tissues. Other cancer treatments also induce salivary gland hypofunction, although to a lesser severity, and in the case of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, the adverse effect is temporary. Fields of sparse literature included pediatric cancer populations, cancer chemotherapy, radioactive iodine treatment, total body irradiation/hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and immunotherapy.