Quality-of-life (QL) is a relatively new concept in head and neck oncology outcomes research. It is important to have a clear definition and to use reliable and valid measures in its assessment. QL studies should use patient self-reported data and should account for treatment or disease-related symptoms and the domains of physical and psychosocial functioning, together with a patient-rated global QL score. Within head and neck cancer there are very distinct differences between sites. Oral cancer and laryngeal cancer lead to very different QL outcomes. Care must be used when comparing treatments; organ-preservation techniques do not necessarily lead to better QL outcomes, especially in laryngeal cancer. An assessment of life-utility (QALY) may be helpful in determining how meaningful survival is after treatment, and can be used to provide information to purchasers of health care services in support of better resource allocation for head and neck cancer patients.