Health-related quality of life three years after diagnosis of head and neck cancer—A longitudinal study

Authors

  • Eva Hammerlid MD, PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden
    • Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden
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  • Eva Silander RD,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden
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  • Lena Hörnestam RN,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden
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  • Marianne Sullivan PhD

    1. Health Care Research Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden
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Abstract

Purpose

To examine health-related quality of life (HRQL) of all head and neck cancer patients from diagnosis until 3 years later and to analyze its dependence on tumor site and other patient characteristics.

Subjects and Methods

Two hundred thirty-two patients (mean age 61 years; 70% men) were included and followed with clinical measures and mailed standardized HRQL questionnaires (The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core-30 (EORTC QLQ-C30), the EORTC QLQ-Head and Neck Cancer module (QLQ-H&N35), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).

Results

After 3 years 66 % of the patients were alive and 88% of these completed the study. The HRQL was worse during treatment and returned slowly thereafter to pretreatment values with few exceptions. After 3 years the best improvement was found for mental distress, followed by a significant global quality of life improvement and reduced pain compared with diagnosis. A significant deterioration was found for problems with dry mouth, senses, and teeth, as well as for opening the mouth wide (ie, they seemed to be related to the treatment given). There were few significant improvements between the 1- and 3-year follow-ups. Depression and physical functioning at diagnosis were independent predictors for global quality of life at 3 years. Patients who died during the study had a worse HRQL at diagnosis compared with patients completing the study. Patients with advanced disease (stage III + IV) scored worse than patients with small tumors for most of the HRQL domains. These differences increased over time. Few differences were found relating to gender and age. The pharyngeal cancer group scored worse compared with the other tumor sites, and these patients would probably benefit from a rehabilitation program right from diagnosis, including treatment for malnutrition and pain.

Conclusions

The largest HRQL changes for head and neck cancer patients are seen within the first year after diagnosis, with a significant deterioration just after finishing treatment. Thereafter, most of the variables return to pretreatment values. The significant problems with dry mouth, senses, and teeth after treatment are constant over time. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Head Neck 23: 113–125, 2001.

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