(HealthDay News) – Head and neck cancer patients who are compliant with a swallow preservation protocol (SPP) are more likely to maintain their diet, according to a study published online Aug. 27 in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Victor M. Duarte, MD, from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues assessed 85 patients who received radiation or chemoradiation and participated in the SPP from 2007–2012. Patients were categorized as compliant or noncompliant with SPP. Patient diets were recorded at each visit and characterized as regular (chewable), puree, liquid, or gastrostomy tube (G-tube) dependent.

The researchers found that 57 patients were compliant and 28 were noncompliant with SPP during treatment. There was a significantly higher percentage of patients tolerating a regular diet (54.4% vs. 21.4%), a lower G-tube dependence (22.8% vs. 53.6%), and a higher rate of maintaining or improving their diet (54.4% vs. 25%) in compliant patients compared to noncompliant patients.

“A swallow preservation protocol appears to help maintain or improve swallow function in head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemoradiation,” the authors write.

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