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Relationship Between Quality of Life and Depression in Patients With Head and Neck Cancer


  • Presented in part at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Larynological, Rhinological and Otological Society, Inc., Scottsdale, Arizona, May 12, 1997.


Objective: This study describes the relationship between health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and depression in patients following major surgery for head and neck cancer.

Design: Cross-sectional study using medical chart review, patient interview, and test administration.

Method: Fifty patients were evaluated 6 months to 6 years following surgery using one global HRQOL measure (The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General [FACT-G]); three disease-specific measures of HRQOL (the HN module of the FACT [FACT-HNS], The University of Washington Quality of Life Scale [UWQOL], and The Performance Status Scale for Head and Neck Cancer); and one measure of depression (The Beck Depression Inventory [BDI]).

Results: The study population showed a high occurrence of depressive symptoms (22%). A negative correlation existed between the BDI and HRQOL as measured by the FACT-G (r = −0.49, P < .001) and the UWQOL (r = −0.44, P = .003). When somatic symptoms of depression were removed, the BDI remained correlated with HRQOL and was most highly correlated with the Emotional Well-Being (EWB) subscale of the FACT-G (r = −0.42, P = .003). There was no correlation between clinician judgments of EWB and any patient-rated measures of HRQOL or depression.

Conclusions: Results demonstrate an inverse relationship between patient-reported HRQOL and depression. The lack of correlation between physician and patient ratings of HRQOL and EWB stresses the importance of obtaining patient ratings in addition to traditional clinician ratings when assessing outcomes. Finally, the multidimensional construction of the FACT with its specific subscales may make it a useful clinical tool for assessing patient status and augmenting patient interviews.