Psychosocial adjustment in head and neck cancer: the impact of disfigurement, gender and social support

Head Neck. 2003 Feb;25(2):103-12. doi: 10.1002/hed.10174.


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the psychosocial impact of disfigurement, gender, and social support after surgical treatment of head and neck cancer.

Method: Eighty-two ambulatory head and neck cancer patients, 6 months or more after treatment and free of active disease were assessed. Ratings of disfigurement were obtained using a valid and reliable 9-point scale developed for the study. Standardized measures of social support, depressive symptoms, well-being, and life happiness were used.

Results: The sample as a whole displayed high levels of life happiness, low levels of depression, and positive feelings of well-being. Women demonstrated higher levels of depression and lower life happiness; subjects with greater disfigurement were more depressed. Social support seemed to buffer the impact of greater levels of disfigurement on well-being for women but not for men.

Conclusion: These results suggest that women with head and neck cancer who experience low social support and face disfiguring treatment are at greatest risk for psychosocial dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Image*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*