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Keywords:

  • Chemoradiation;
  • advanced head and neck carcinoma;
  • quality of life;
  • survival

Abstract

BACKGROUND

The standard of care for locally advanced head and neck carcinoma usually has been surgery followed by radiation therapy. Patient survival using this approach has been reported to be poor. The disfiguration resulting from surgery and the long-term morbidity of postoperative radiation often results in considerable distress. Concurrent chemotherapy and radiation was introduced to improve outcome. Excellent local control and survival results often have been reported in Phase II and Phase III studies. The acute toxicity of combined chemotherapy and radiation is significant. However, organ preservation may improve quality of life. This review article summarizes the findings from published series of surgery, postoperative radiation, radiation therapy alone, and chemoradiation with regard to quality of life issues for patients with locally advanced head and neck carcinoma.

METHODS

A literature search was used to identify quality-of-life studies of postoperative radiation, radiation therapy alone, and chemoradiation in patients with locally advanced head and neck carcinoma. Factors affecting long-term quality-of-life issues in each treatment modality were identified, compared, and evaluated.

RESULTS

Speech disorder, dysphagia, pain, and depression were found to be the common side effects affecting quality of life regardless of the treatment modality. Xerostomia is the major complication affecting patients undergoing radiation or chemoradiation.

CONCLUSIONS

Acute side effects of combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy usually were found to resolve after treatment. Long-term morbidity is substantial because of xerostomia and severe dysphagia. However, preliminary studies suggest that because of organ preservation, patients may achieve a better quality of life after chemoradiation compared with the conventional use of surgery and postoperative radiation. Cancer 2002;94:1131–41. © 2002 American Cancer Society.

DOI 10.1002/cncr.10257