Survivorship Challenges and Information Needs after Radiotherapy for Oral Cancer

J Cancer Educ. 2017 Dec;32(4):799-807. doi: 10.1007/s13187-016-1048-8.


Oral cancer (OC) treatment can lead to considerable functional impairment, psychological distress, and decrements in quality of life. Given that limited information and support services are available for cancer survivors, many are turning to the Internet. However, little is known about the specific information and service needs of OC survivors. We conducted a descriptive study to (1) characterize the associations between OC survivor functional problems and distress and (2) describe the Internet use of OC survivors, their satisfaction with existing sources of information/support, and their unmet information and service needs. Ninety-three oral cancer survivors completed cross-sectional surveys within 1-year of completing radiotherapy. Clinical levels of distress were 10 % for depression and 16 % for anxiety. Dental health, smell, and range of motion problems were significant (p < .05) determinants of both depression and anxiety symptoms. Eighty-three percent of survivors used the Internet; most used it to obtain health-related information or support. Unmet information needs included how to live a healthy lifestyle after treatment (87 %), strategies for dealing with eating and speaking problems (81 %), and information about what to expect in terms of side effects after treatment (76 %). Findings suggest that interventions that teach survivors coping and problem-solving skills to manage and cope with functional impairments may help to alleviate distress. Results of this study support the need for psychoeducational interventions for this population and showcase the potential of the Internet as a feasible mode for future dissemination.

Keywords: Determinants of distress; Internet; Needs assessment; Oral cancer; Survivorship.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Radiotherapy / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires