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Long-Term Aspects of Quality of Life in Head and Neck Cancer Patients Treated With Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy: A 5-Year Longitudinal Follow-up and Comparison with a Normal Population Cohort

Journal article
Authors Edvard Abel
Ewa M Silander
Jan Nyman
Thomas Björk-Eriksson
Eva Hammerlid
Published in Advances in Radiation Oncology
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Oncology
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Language en
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology


© 2019 The Author(s) Purpose: Knowledge of long-term health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in patients with advanced head and neck cancer treated with intensity modulated radiation therapy is scarce. Methods and Materials: HRQOL in 126 patients with advanced head and neck cancer treated with intensity modulated radiation therapy was followed longitudinally from diagnosis to 5 years after treatment with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer's QLQ-C30, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer's Head and Neck Cancer Module, and the M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory. The survivors' HRQOL was compared with an age- and sex-matched normal population cohort. Results: At 5 years, 73 of the 95 surviving patients had completed the study. Significant reductions in general pain (29 vs 12), head and neck (HN) pain (22 vs 14), and feeling ill (20 vs 10) were found, and emotional functioning (70 vs 83) and global quality of life (67 vs 74) improved, compared with baseline values. Conversely, dry mouth (19 vs 56), senses (8 vs 27), teeth problems (10 vs 22), opening mouth (19 vs 56), and sticky saliva (15 vs 40) were markedly worse, although significant improvements had occurred over time after treatment. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory scores >80 at 5 years indicated good swallowing function. In a subgroup analysis, dry mouth and senses were significantly better in patients treated with chemoradiotherapy. Comparison to a normal population cohort's HRQOL shows that the study group experienced a wide array of symptoms affecting their quality of life. Conclusions: The results of this large, long-term follow-up study show that a majority of patients report a reasonable quality of life 5 years after treatment and that there seems to be continuous improvement over time. Comparison with a normal population cohort, however, underlines the fact that classical side effects remain, even with improved radiation techniques. Additional emphasis on normal-tissue-sparing radiation therapy is warranted, with close attention devoted to HRQOL outcomes.

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