Health professional perspective on disability in head and neck cancer

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jun;136(6):576-83. doi: 10.1001/archoto.2010.78.


Objectives: To evaluate problems after head and neck cancer (HNC) from the multidisciplinary team perspective; to classify the results using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF); and to compare the results with a patient perspective.

Design: Internet-based survey.

Participants: There were 103 participants from 27 countries: 50 physicians (otolaryngologists, maxillofacial specialists, and radiation and medical oncologists) and 53 nonphysicians (dentists, psychologists, physiotherapists, speech swallowing therapists, nurses, and social workers).

Interventions: Health professionals involved in the treatment of HNC were asked about relevant problems. The survey was Internet based and included 5 questions, 1 for each of the ICF components: Body Functions, Body Structures, Activities and Participation, and contextual Environmental and Personal factors. Answers were translated into ICF categories by 2 independent researchers, and frequencies were calculated. The results were compared with the outcomes of patient interviews based on similar questions.

Results: A total of 3643 different answers translated into the ICF using 160 different second-level ICF categories. Less than 1% of answers were not covered by the ICF. There was high consistency in the ratings of food ingestion, pain, and the relevance of the immediate family. In general, health professionals tended to emphasize aspects of anatomical defects and body image, whereas areas of speech and exercise tolerance functions were more often named by patients.

Conclusions: The ICF seems to be a comprehensive tool for classifying problems after HNC from the multidisciplinary health professional perspective. There are important differences between the health professional and patient perspectives. We should be aware of this during cancer follow-up sessions and in the creation of rehabilitation plans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Health Occupations*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patients / psychology