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Keypoints

• An update of the literature on physical and psychosocial aspects of head and neck cancer, with special emphasis on effects of treatment, patient-related factors and psychosocial intervention on quality of life (QoL).

• QoL deteriorates during and directly after treatment and returns only slowly to pre-treatment values.

• Organ preservation, gender and coping-strategies are factors related to QoL after treatment.

• As prognosis and survival were found to be comparable under different treatment regimes, we noticed a gradual shift in therapy towards organ preservation.

• Systematic care, using specific instruments is important for improving the QoL.

• We feel that more attention should be given to improving support, in order to optimize the QoL of patients during the palliative stage.