The relationship between depressive symptoms and initial quality of life and function in head and neck cancer

Laryngoscope. 2011 Jun;121(6):1212-8. doi: 10.1002/lary.21788. Epub 2011 May 3.


Objectives: To determine the incidence of depression in head and neck cancer (HNCA) patients and the effect of depression on baseline head- and neck-specific measures of quality of life and function.

Study design: Prospective cohort analysis.

Methods: A total of 255 patients were prospectively evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory Fast-Screen (BDI-FS) survey, University of Washington Quality of Life (UW QOL), Voice Handicap Index (VHI), and MD Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI) questionnaires. Patients with a preexisting diagnosis of depression were excluded.

Results: Complete data were available for 77 patients with HNCA and 53 controls. Depressive symptoms were identified in 9% of controls and 19% of HNCA patients, and were significantly associated with a HNCA diagnosis (OR = 4.1, P = .044). Among patients with HNCA, depression was significantly more common in black patients (OR = 15.8, P = .017). A significant negative correlation was found between BDI-FS score and UW global QOL score (r = -0.4, P = .0019). Depression was significantly associated with poorer UW global QOL (β = -22.46, P = .0004), recreation (β = -13.77, P = .037), speech (β = -24.05, P = .004), and MDADI functional (β = -17.31, P = .009), physical (β = -14.99, P = .032), and emotional (β = -11.60, P = .049) domain scores but not with other UW QOL or VHI domains, after controlling for all other variables.

Conclusions: Patients with HNCA have a high incidence of depressive symptoms at diagnosis, which is significantly higher in black patients, and is associated with poorer QOL and MDADI scores. Pretreatment depression may serve as a marker for patients with increased risk of swallowing impairment and reduced QOL who would benefit from targeted intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Deglutition Disorders / complications
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / complications
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires