Returning to work after head and neck cancer

Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Jun;28(3):155-160. doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000628.


Purpose of review: There is a lack of evidence worldwide on return to work (RTW) in head and neck cancer (HNC), possibly because traditionally those suffering with it were typically at retirement age and survival rates were low. However, in the last 30 years, HNC survival rates have increased, resulting in more people living with the after-effects of treatment for longer, and many are of working-age. The HNC population is also changing because of a 20% increased incidence of oral and pharyngeal HNCs especially in the under 65 years of age, likely accounted for by the surge in human papilloma virus positive related HNCs.

Recent findings: The literature suggests that people who have had treatment for HNC return to work less than other cancers. The knowledge base on RTW after HNC is emergent and conclusions are currently difficult to draw. The process of returning and remaining in work is complex, affected by multiple factors and interactions. There is little evidence about work-related experiences from the perspectives of HNC survivors.

Summary: There is an urgent need for more in-depth exploration of the needs and concerns of HNC survivors returning to work after treatment, with the ultimate aim of work-related intervention development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / economics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Papillomavirus Infections / economics
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / therapy
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Return to Work* / economics
  • Return to Work* / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology