Review Article

European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology

, Volume 267, Issue 10, pp 1495-1505

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Voice and speech outcomes of chemoradiation for advanced head and neck cancer: a systematic review

  • Irene JacobiAffiliated withThe Netherlands Cancer Institute
  • , Lisette van der MolenAffiliated withThe Netherlands Cancer Institute
  • , Hermelinde HuiskensAffiliated withInstitute of Phonetic Sciences, University of Amsterdam
  • , Maya A. van RossumAffiliated withLeiden University Medical Center
  • , Frans J. M. HilgersAffiliated withThe Netherlands Cancer InstituteInstitute of Phonetic Sciences, University of AmsterdamAcademic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam Email author 


Purpose of this review is to systematically assess the effects on voice and speech of advanced head and neck cancer and its treatment by means of chemoradiotherapy (CRT). The databases Medline, Embase and Cochrane were searched (1991–2009) for terms head and neck cancer, chemoradiation, voice and speech rehabilitation. Twenty articles met the inclusion criteria, whereof 14 reported on voice outcomes and 10 on speech. Within the selected 20 studies, 18 different tools were used for speech or voice evaluation. Most studies assessed their data by means of patient questionnaires. Four studies presented outcome measures in more than one dimension. Most studies summarised the outcomes of posttreatment data that were assessed at various points in time after treatment. Except for four studies, pre-treatment measurements were lacking. This and the fact that most studies combined the outcomes of patients with radiated laryngeal cancers with outcome data of non-laryngeal cancer patients impedes an interpretation in terms of the effects of radiation versus the effects of the disease itself on voice or speech. Overall, the studies indicated that voice and speech degenerated during CRT, improved again 1–2 months after treatment and exceeded pre-treatment levels after 1 year or longer. However, voice and speech measures do not show normal values before or after treatment. Given the large-ranged posttreatment data, missing baseline assessment and the lacking separation of tumour/radiation sites, there is an urgent need for structured standardised multi-dimensional speech and voice assessment protocols in patients with advanced head and neck cancer treated with CRT.


Head and neck cancer Organ preservation Systematic review Voice Speech Rehabilitation