Oral Health in Patients with History of Head and Neck Cancer: Complexity and Benefits of a Targeted Oral Healthcare Pathway

Curr Oncol Rep. 2024 Mar;26(3):258-271. doi: 10.1007/s11912-024-01507-8. Epub 2024 Feb 20.


Purpose of review: This work consists in a literature review on the current state of knowledge regarding the oral management of patients with a history of head and neck cancer (HNC), corroborated by clinical cases and illustrated by clear infographic summaries. It aims to provide healthcare professionals with a comprehensive overview of the oral health status of HCN patients.

Recent findings: Head and neck cancers (HNCs) represent the seventh most common type of cancer worldwide, with over 660,000 annual new cases. Despite the significant negative impact of HNCs on oral health, patients often receive no or inappropriate oral care while the significant impact of oral pathologies on cancer prognosis is commonly underestimated. This work (i) describes the oral cavity during and after HNC through the prism of care complexity and (ii) highlights several potential key factors that could worsen long-time patients' prognosis and quality of life. By investigating the biological, microbiological, functional, and psychological dimensions of the interrelationships between HNCs and oral health, the authors explored the barriers and benefits of a targeted oral healthcare pathway. This article emphasizes the importance of multidisciplinary care and highlights the need for further research elucidating the intricate relationships between oral health and HNCs, particularly through the microbiota.

Keywords: Critical pathways; Dental care; Head and neck neoplasms; Oral health; Quality of life; Radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Oral Health*
  • Quality of Life / psychology