Objective: Update a previous review examining associations between psycho-social factors and survival in head and neck cancer patients.
Data sources: Searched Cochrane, Psych info and Embase for the period from 1 January 1995 to 1 June 2007, as well as personal and article reference lists and article archives.
Study selection: Identified articles assessed by consensus for eligibility using following criteria: survival as outcome measure; psycho-social factors as prognostic indicators; results specifically for head and neck cancer patients, not including oesophageal or thyroid cancer. Seven of 64 articles fulfilled criteria.
Data extraction: Data abstracted independently by two reviewers using pre-determined proformas. Quality also rated using Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network 50 tool.
Data synthesis: At baseline, expression of intense psycho-social complaints, higher self-perceived physical ability and self-reported high physical functioning were significantly associated with increased survival.
Uncertainty about the diagnosis and treatment was found to be a negative prognostic indicator, as was being single, poor cognitive function, baseline fatigue and alcoholism.
Overall quality of life and head and neck pain 12 months after date of diagnosis were found to be significantly associated with survival in one study. However, overall quality of life and depression at the time of diagnosis were not.
Conclusions: There appears to be some association between selected psycho-social factors and long-term survival from head and neck cancer. However this relationship is currently neither strong nor proven, requiring examination by multi centred trials with standardisation of research definitions and methodologies, and examination of post-treatment psycho-social factors.