Physical and psychosocial correlates of head and neck cancer: a review of the literature

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999 Mar;120(3):427-36. doi: 10.1016/S0194-5998(99)70287-1.


This article reviews recent literature on the physical and psychosocial correlates of head and neck cancer, with a focus on quality-of-life issues, rehabilitation outcomes, and changes in the literature from the previous decade. These studies have shown that head and neck cancer has an enormous impact on the quality of life of patients. The most important physical symptoms are speech problems, dry mouth and throat, and swallowing problems. Pain is also frequently reported. Disturbances in psychosocial functioning and psychological distress are reported by a considerable number of patients; worry, anxiety, mood disorder, fatigue, and depression are the main symptoms. Cancer of the head and neck has a negative effect on social, recreational, and sexual functioning. Despite a growing number of longitudinal studies, little is known about the rehabilitation outcomes over a longer period of time. Future research is necessary to form a consensus about the further development and use of specific instruments to study patients with cancer of the head and neck, to conduct more prospective studies, and to develop programs that are aimed at maximizing rehabilitation outcomes and evaluate these programs with randomized designs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / complications
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Research Design
  • Speech Disorders / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Xerostomia / etiology