Oral Somatosensory Alterations in Head and Neck Cancer Patients: An Overview of the Evidence and Causes

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Food-related sensory alterations are prevalent among cancer patients and negatively impact their relationship with food, quality of life, and overall health outcome. In addition to taste and smell, food perception is also influenced by somatosensation comprising tactile, thermal, and chemesthetic sensations; yet studies on oral somatosensory perception of cancer patients are lacking to provide patients with tailored nutritional solutions. The present review aimed to summarise findings on the oral somatosensory perception of head and neck cancer (HNC) patients and the potential aetiologies of somatosensory alterations among this population. Subjective assessments demonstrated alterations in oral somatosensory perception such as sensitivity to certain textures, spices, and temperatures. Physiological changes in oral somatosensation have been observed through objective assessments of sensory function, showing reduced localised tactile function and thermal sensitivity. Changes in whole-mouth tactile sensation assessed using texture discrimination and stereognosis ability seem to be less evident. Available evidence indicated oral somatosensory alterations among HNC patients, which may affect their eating behaviour, but more studies with larger sample sizes and standardised assessment methods are needed. Unlike other types of cancers, sensory alterations in HNC patients are not only caused by the treatments, but also by the cancer itself, although the exact mechanism is not fully understood. Prevalent oral complications, such as xerostomia, dysphagia, mucositis, and chemosensory alterations, further modify their oral condition and food perception. Oral somatosensory perception of cancer patients is an under-investigated topic, which constitutes an important avenue for future research due to its potential significance on eating behaviour and quality of life.

Udgave nummer3
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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