Changing quality of life in patients with advanced head and neck cancer after primary radiotherapy or chemoradiation

Oncology. 2005;68(4-6):405-13. doi: 10.1159/000086982. Epub 2005 Jul 12.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the longitudinal changes in quality of life (QoL) for patients with advanced stage (stage III or IV) head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) following primary radiotherapy (RT) or concomitant chemoradiotherapy.

Methods: From January 2001 to January 2003, 149 patients with advanced HNSCC were enrolled. The data pertaining to their QoL were collected using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Core Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and the EORTC Head and Neck Module (QLQ-H&N35) before and 1 year after RT.

Results: Sixty-eight (46%) patients dropped out during the study period. Thirty-nine (57%) of them died of cancer. Those who were older, stage IV, treated by RT alone, or had worse pretreatment EORTC QoL scales were significantly more likely to drop out. For those completing the study, only the problems of swallowing, dry mouth, and sticky saliva were found to become more serious with both statistical (p < 0.05) and clinical (difference >10 points) significance 1 year after RT. Those subjects with cancer at the hypopharynx/larynx had a 3.3-fold higher probability to report an improvement in global QoL (95% confidence interval, CI: 1.11-6.82) than those with cancer at the oral cavity/oropharynx. Those alive without cancer 1 year after RT had a 3.6-fold higher probability to report an improvement in global QoL (95% CI: 1.32-7.13) than those alive with cancer.

Conclusion: The study showed a high dropout rate in this longitudinal QoL study for patients with advanced HNSCC. Pretreatment cancer sites and living with cancer or not after treatment significantly affected the change in global QoL 1 year after RT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage