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Artificial tube feeding methods for use with patients with head and neck cancer who are receiving treatment with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both

Nugent B, Lewis S, O'Sullivan JM
Published Online: 
31 January 2013

Patients with cancer of the head and neck are at risk of malnutrition during radiotherapy treatment due to the side effects of this treatment and they may need tube feeding to meet their nutritional needs.

Tube feeding can either be delivered via a nasogastric feeding tube, which is a fine tube inserted through the nose into the stomach, or a gastrostomy tube which is inserted through the skin of the abdomen directly into the stomach. Both of these methods allow the delivery of nutrients directly into the stomach.

Tube feeding is essential to meet the nutritional needs of head and neck cancer patients as malnutrition can lead to a poorer prognosis for this patient group. There is debate over which method of tube feeding provides the most benefit to the patient for outcomes such as nutritional benefit and quality of life, as well as avoiding delays in radiotherapy treatment.

Following our analysis of the available literature, only one clinical trial was eligible to be included in this review. The authors of this review found no evidence to support the use of any one method of tube feeding over another.