Background: The goal of this investigation was to examine the relationship between, and application of, two disease specific quality of life (QL) measures currently being employed for head and neck cancer patients: the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Head and Neck Scale (FACT-H&N) and the Performance Status Scale for Head and Neck Cancer Patients (PSS-HN).
Methods: The FACT-H&N and PSS-HN were administered to 151 head and neck cancer patients with a range of disease sites, treatment status (on vs. off treatment), and treatment modalities (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy).
Results: FACT-H&N subscale and total scores and PSS-HN subscale scores proved sensitive to patients groups (showed significant and clinically meaningful differences) on the basis of treatment status (on vs. off treatment) and global performance status (Karnofsky scores). The pattern of correlations between FACT-H&N and PSS-HN subscales supported the scales' construct (convergent vs. divergent) validity. The strongest and most significant associations were observed between PSS-HN Normalcy of Diet and Eating in Public, and the head and neck subscale (HNS) of FACT-H&N, both of which were designed to measure the unique problems of head and neck cancer patients. More modest associations were observed between subscales measuring physical and functional areas of performance, social functioning, and emotional well-being.
Conclusions: The FACT-HNS was found to be reliable and valid when applied to head and neck cancer patients. It clearly adds information to that collected by the parent (core) instrument. The PSS-HN also provides unique information, independent of that provided by the Karnofsky or the FACT-H&N. This study supported the multidimensional nature of QL for head and neck cancer patients, and thus the importance of assessing disease specific concerns in addition to general health status when assessing functional and QL outcome.