Characteristics and prevalence of orofacial pain as an initial symptom of oral and oropharyngeal cancer and its impact on the patient's functionality and quality of life


      To evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of orofacial pain in oral and oropharyngeal cancer (OOC), at diagnosis.

      Material and Methods

      a) Study group (SG; n = 74) patients with cancer were divided into 2 subgroups: oral cancer (OC) and oropharyngeal cancer (OPC); b) control group (CG; n = 74) patients within dental care.

      Study Design

      An Orofacial Pain Assessment, verbal descriptive scale, Helkimo dysfunction index, Quality of Life questionnaire, and Karnofsky performance status (KPS) was used for evaluation.


      The mean age was 58.46 years (79.7% male) in SG, 58.61 years (20.3% male) in CG. The pain within the SG was indicated by the following: prevalence = 91.9% (21.6% in stages 0, I, or II; 70.3% in III or IV); reason for seeking care = 50.1%; main complaint = 55.4%; most important issue in the past 7 days = 74.3%; breakthrough-like pain = 64.9%; main features: chewing or swallowing as triggering factors, wake up patient, variable duration, independent of daytime, multiple descriptors, and earache. The following indexes were worse within the SG: clinical dysfunction, quality of life, and KPS. In addition, the OC subgroup reported toothache-like pain and burning; whereas the OPC subgroup reported heavy swallowing as triggering factor, throat as location, and a bilateral earache.


      At diagnosis, orofacial pain, including breakthrough-like pain, was prevalent in patients with OOC, and the pattern was heterogeneous. Predominantly, the pain was moderate to severe, related to stage of cancer, and already compromising the patients’ quality of life and functionality.
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