A new feasibility study that followed head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment revealed home-based sensors can effectively monitor patients for early signs of dehydration — a common yet dangerous side effect that often occurs during the six- to eight-week recovery phase after radiation treatment.
The lead investigator on the study, Susan Peterson, Ph.D., said patients receiving radiation treatment often have difficulty swallowing because of decreased saliva production and mucositis — inflamed mucus membranes, which are common for head and neck cancer patients.
“Because eating and drinking can be very painful, most patients don’t get enough food and fluids,” Peterson said. “Once the onset of dehydration manifests, it not only can derail recovery, it can lead to other dangerous conditions, including long-term risks with swallowing.”
Using a software-based platform called CYCORE (Cyberinfrastructure for Comparative Effectiveness Research), researchers monitored the weight, blood pressure and daily food and drink intake of 48 head and neck cancer patients at home during two five-day periods. Participants also used smartphones to report pain levels when swallowing and other side effects.
The study showed 60% of patients had at least one event that would suggest dehydration risk; 35% had two or more events. More than 90% of patients found home monitoring didn’t pose a challenge during treatment.
“The data shows that monitoring a patient’s progress from home is convenient and beneficial for both the clinician and the patient,” said Peterson.