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Dietitians will be involved in the nutritional care of many patients with head and neck cancer as restriction in oral feeding is common.  This may be due to the positioning of the tumour and or as a consequence of surgery or radiotherapy.  Some patients may need prolonged oral or enteral nutritional support throughout and following treatment.   The dietitian will often see the patient prior to and after surgery and RT to assess and improve nutritional status which will influence weight gain, recovery and health and wound healing.  The dietitian and speech and lanuage therapist (SaLT) work together to promote weaning from enteral nutritional support onto oral nutrition alone, with texture and consistency modifications as recommended by SaLT. 

Oral nutritional support may involve fortification of diet and fluids, sometimes including the use of oral nutritional supplements although.  Enteral nutritional support may be given via either a naso-gastric feeding tube or a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube.   Prolonged PEG feeding may be useful during radiotherapy when swallowing may be difficult because of reduced salivation and mucositis.  Some patients require oral or enteral nutritional support in the long term, whereas others manage to return to normal diet and fluids alone, in time.

Hospital services A-Z

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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