The pretreatment relationship of tumor burden to speech and swallowing function in 230 patients with oral or oropharyngeal cancer before surgery was assessed. Reduced articulation, reduced conversational understandability, or self-reported dysphagia were present in at least 34% of patients before treatment. Videofluoroscopy showed at least 9% of patients had reduced swallowing efficiency on liquid, paste, or cookie boluses. By use of regression techniques, the percentages of the oral tongue and of the anterior floor of mouth affected by neoplasm were found to be significantly related to reduced articulation; T stage and the percentage of the oral tongue affected with tumor were mildly related to reduced understandability; tumor volume and having soft palate affected by neoplasm were significantly related to self-reported dysphagia; and percentages of affected oral tongue and of affected tongue base were significantly related to reduced swallowing efficiency. Tumor burden may contribute to functional deficits at diagnosis in patients who have resectable tumors.
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