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Keywords:

  • Head and neck cancer;
  • quality of life;
  • laryngectomy;
  • mandibulectomy;
  • cancer survivors.

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis A cohort of 3-year survivors of head and neck cancer was evaluated for persistent quality of life (QOL) concerns and long-term treatment effects.

Study Design Mailed questionnaire.

Methods The questionnaire with the University of Washington Quality of Life (UWQOL) scale, the Performance Status Scale for Head and Neck Cancer (PSS-HN), the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) scale, and the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Head and Neck (FACT-HN) scale and locally prepared questions was sent to 111 3-year disease-free survivors. Analysis was performed to statistically evaluate the effect of stage, site, treatment type, surgery, and cancer concern on QOL. Current smoking information was gathered.

Results Seventy-two survivors completed the questionnaire. Advanced stage was correlated with lower QOL scores in the domains of disfigurement, chewing ability, speech, and eating in public. QOL scores did not vary by initial tumor site. Patients treated with irradiation alone had statistically better QOL scores than those treated with combined surgery/radiation therapy in the pain, disfigurement, chewing, and speech domains. Laryngectomy and composite resection survivors reported lower QOL scores than patients treated with irradiation alone. A low level of cancer concern persisted in about half of the long-term survivors. Cancer concern was associated with continued pain, disfigurement, and limitations on eating in public. Three-quarters of the tobacco users had quit by the time of the questionnaire. Nevertheless, the patients were not thoroughly convinced that tobacco had caused their cancer.

Conclusions Long-term survivors of head and neck cancer experience QOL effects well after completion of treatment. Effects are most pronounced in survivors who required combined surgery/radiation therapy. Continuing low levels of cancer concern persist in about half of the survivors. Many cancer survivors successfully quit smoking.