Clinical management of salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia in head-and-neck cancer patients: successes and barriers

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2010 Nov 15;78(4):983-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2010.06.052.


The most significant long-term complication of radiotherapy in the head-and-neck region is hyposalivation and its related complaints, particularily xerostomia. This review addresses the pathophysiology underlying irradiation damage to salivary gland tissue, the consequences of radiation injury, and issues contributing to the clinical management of salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia. These include ways to (1) prevent or minimize radiation injury of salivary gland tissue, (2) manage radiation-induced hyposalivation and xerostomia, and (3) restore the function of salivary gland tissue damaged by radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy / methods
  • Radiotherapy / trends
  • Saliva, Artificial / therapeutic use
  • Salivary Glands / radiation effects*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods
  • Xerostomia / etiology
  • Xerostomia / prevention & control
  • Xerostomia / therapy*


  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Saliva, Artificial