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Information and Resources from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center
U-M study links pain, dry mouth to poor sleep for head and neck cancer patientsHead and neck cancer patients who reported poor sleep quality one year after diagnosis had more symptoms of chronic pain and dry mouth related to radiation treatments, according to a recent University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center study in the journal The Laryngoscope. Controlling these side effects may improve sleep and enhance quality of life.
"Sleep disturbances are a common complaint in head and neck cancer patients and have been shown to decrease quality of life, decrease mental health and serve as a predictor of other complications in the treatment of the cancer," said senior study author Jeffrey Terrell, M.D., professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School.
The researchers surveyed 457 people at three otolaryngology clinics who had been recently diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Participants responded to questions about their physical and emotional quality of life, including pain, sleep health, eating and respiratory problems. The subjects were then surveyed again one year after diagnosis.
It was found that sleep quality did not change dramatically from the time of diagnosis to one year after treatment. But quality of sleep at both time points was worse than typical sleep scores for the average person. The researchers suggest that the relatively minor change in sleep quality one year after diagnosis may be due to symptoms and side effects from treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
"Head and neck cancer patients have a high prevalence of pain compared to patients with other cancer sites, and pain is associated with insomnia. Pain is often correlated with depression among cancer patients, and the majority of depressed patients report some sleep disturbances," Terrell said. "Additionally, radiation therapy to treat head and neck cancer can contribute to dry mouth, which requires excessive drinking and urination throughout the night."
The study authors note the importance for patients to work with physicians to determine a cause of the sleep disorder. This is especially important given that treatment of sleep disorders is likely to improve sleep quality, and therefore improve quality of life.
Yoga reduces fatigue in cancer survivors, study showsYoga and complementary therapy programs may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life in cancer survivors, according to a recent study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's 46th Annual Meeting in Chicago.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, reviewed 410 survivors of early stage cancers. The subjects received either standard monitoring plus a four-week, twice-weekly yoga class for cancer survivors or standard monitoring and usual care.
The study showed that the group who received the yoga therapy were more likely to report an increase in sleep quality, a decrease in use of sleep medications, less fatigue and a better overall quality of life.
"Because a cancer diagnosis and standard treatment can cause patients and survivors to feel a sense of lost body control, this often contributes to a lack of sleep," said Donna Murphy, co-director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center's PsychOncology program. "Yoga is a way to actively participate in the healing of the cancer and fatigue by creating calmness and relaxation in both the mind and the body."
The U-M Cancer Center offers an array of complementary therapies through its PsychOncology program, including art therapy, music therapy and guided imagery. Murphy, who was not involved in the Rochester study, said yoga is also recommended as a healing tool.
Evaluations of complementary therapy programs at U-M have shown that patients generally feel better after participating in these activities, Murphy said. Fatigue is decreased, immune functioning is increased and the therapies often lead to a better sense of balance, calmness and general well-being.
"By relieving the negative social and psychological effects of cancer through complementary therapies, patients are better able to regain their health and improve their lifestyles for more comfortable healing," Murphy said.return to the top of the page
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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
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