Objectives: To describe the long-term effects of oral health problems on quality of life (QoL), functional status, pain, and general health in older male cancer patients.
Design: Secondary analysis of a prospective observational study.
Setting: Community dwelling cancer patients served by a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.
Participants: One hundred fifty male cancer patients responded to the question "Do you have tooth or mouth problems making it hard to eat?" The relationship between patients answering "yes" and the following parameters was assessed: demographics, comorbid conditions, habits, activities of daily living, pain, anxiety, depression, social support, spirituality, QoL, and overall health ratings.
Measurements: Chi-square contingency tables for dichotomous variables, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel for ordered categorical variables, and t tests for associations with continuous variables.
Results: The median age of respondents was 67. Those reporting tooth or mouth problems had had their cancer diagnosed on average 2.9 years before, and 83.3% were found clinically to be cancer free. Patients with these problems had significantly lower global (P=.003) and subscale scores on QoL analysis and higher levels of anxiety (P<.001) and depression (P=.01) than those without tooth or mouth problems; they also had significantly more pain (P<.001) and lower physical functioning (P<.001) and were more impaired in activities of daily living (P<.001). Those with tooth or mouth problems were more likely to describe their overall health as fair or poor (P=.01). Having cancer located in the head and neck region related significantly to having mouth or tooth problems (P=.005), but these problems were not associated with race, education, income, insurance coverage, age, comorbid conditions, alcohol consumption, tobacco or medication usage, type of cancer treatment, tumor stage at diagnosis or follow-up, perceived social support, or spirituality.
Conclusion: Older male cancer patients with mouth or tooth problems making it hard to eat are more likely to have a lower QoL, poorer emotional health, lower levels of physical functioning, and greater pain than patients without these problems.