Quality of life in oropharyngeal cancer: a structured review of the literature

Support Care Cancer. 2018 Aug;26(8):2511-2518. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4227-9. Epub 2018 May 3.


Purpose: To summarize the literature on quality of life (QoL) in patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC).

Methods: The PubMed database was searched using the inclusion criteria "oropharyngeal cancer," "quality of life," "human," and "English," the exclusion criterion "recurrent," and publication date between January 1, 2005 and October 26, 2015.

Results: The search yielded 98 articles of which 17 fulfilled all selection criteria. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) showed a better outcome for several QoL domains and was superior to chemoradiotherapy (CRT) in some studies. At 12-month follow up, deterioration of QoL was seen in a smaller proportion of patients after surgery and postoperative radiotherapy (S&PORT) in comparison to CRT. For all treatment modalities, the most important worsening for several QoL domains was seen at 3 months. Stage III/IV patients experienced a greater deterioration of QoL scores for most scores. No consistent results were reported for the correlation between xerostomia assessed with QoL questionnaires and objective swallowing function assessed with modified barium swallow videofluoroscopy.

Conclusion: The different tools used for the assessment of patient-reported QoL and objective measurement of functional outcome make it difficult to evaluate the effect of different treatment modalities. In general, we can conclude that a non-surgical approach is associated with worse QoL scores. IMRT minimizes radiation to the surrounding tissue and therefore has a better outcome in several QoL domains in comparison to conventional RT.

Keywords: Concurrent chemoradiation therapy (CRT); Dysphagia; Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT); Oropharyngeal cancer; Quality of life; Surgery and postoperative radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies