Improving end-of-life care for head and neck cancer patients

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2012 Mar;12(3):335-43. doi: 10.1586/era.12.6.


Despite improvements in the treatment of head and neck cancer, many patients still succumb to their disease. A litany of medical, psychosocial and ethical challenges arise in managing the end-of-life experiences within this patient population. In this article, we attempt to review existing data about the end-of-life experiences of this cohort, extrapolate relevant data from other cancer patients, and suggest the most promising avenues for additional research and practice improvement for terminal head and neck cancer patients. Clinical decision-making for patients dying of head and neck cancer requires proactive consideration of quality of life, functionality, symptom control and other patient-centered objectives, and frequently benefits from palliative care team involvement. Additional research aimed toward optimizing the end of life experience of head and neck cancer patients and their families is greatly needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Control / methods
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology
  • Behavioral Symptoms / therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / complications
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care* / methods
  • Palliative Care* / psychology
  • Palliative Care* / standards
  • Patient Care Management* / methods
  • Patient Care Management* / standards
  • Professional-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / standards
  • Quality of Life
  • Terminal Care* / ethics
  • Terminal Care* / methods
  • Terminal Care* / psychology
  • Terminal Care* / standards
  • Terminally Ill / psychology
  • Uncertainty