Objectives: To describe prospectively the long-term changes of quality of life and mood in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with surgery and/or radiotherapy.
Patients and Methods: One hundred seven patients completed the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Core Questionnaire, the EORTC Head and Neck Cancer Module, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale before treatment, and 6, 12, 24, and 36 months later.
Results: There was limited deterioration of physical and role functioning and of many head and neck symptoms at 6 months, with improvement thereafter. After 36 months only physical functioning, taste/smell, dry mouth, and sticky saliva were significantly worse, compared with baseline. Female sex, higher cancer stage, and combination treatment were associated with more symptoms and worse functioning. Despite physical deterioration, there was a gradual improvement of depressive symptomatology and global quality of life.
Conclusion: Treatment for head and neck cancer results in short-term morbidity, most of which resolves within 1 year. Despite an initially high level of depressive symptomatology, there is gradual improvement of psychological functioning and global quality of life over the course of 3 years. In this prospective study, the impact of the disease and its treatment in long-term survivors seems to be less severe than it is often assumed to be.