Effects of N-acetylcysteine inhalation therapy on the quality of life of patients with head and neck cancer who are receiving radiation therapy: a prospective non-randomized controlled multi-center study

Head and Neck Cancer

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2020 Aug 14. doi: 10.1007/s00432-020-03347-y. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUNDS AND PURPOSE: Radiation therapy is an important mode of treatment for patients with head and neck cancers, but some associated complications can reduce the quality of life. We investigated whether N-acetylcysteine inhalation therapy improved the quality of life of such patients.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We designed a prospective, non-randomized controlled multi-center study involving 10 institutions. We enrolled 120 patients (80 in the experimental group and 40 in the control group). Patients in the experimental group inhaled nebulized liquid N-acetylcysteine (2400 mg daily) for 8 weeks from the start of radiation therapy. Quality of life was assessed using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire H&N 35.

RESULTS: N-acetylcysteine inhalation was not associated with any side effect or discomfort. The reduction in painkiller use from the end of N-acetylcysteine inhalation therapy to the 1-month follow-up was greater in the experimental group than in the control group (P = 0.014). Dry mouth symptoms also improved significantly in the experimental group (P = 0.019).

CONCLUSION: N-acetylcysteine inhalation improves the quality of life of patients with head and neck cancers who are receiving radiation therapy, without any specific side effect.