To determine predictors of pain 1 year after the diagnosis of head and neck cancer.
Prospective, multisite cohort study.
Three academically affiliated medical centers.
The study population comprised 374 previously untreated patients with carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract.
Main Outcome Measures
Participants were surveyed before treatment and 1 year thereafter. Multivariate analyses were conducted to determine predictors of the 36-Item Short-Form Instrument (SF-36) bodily pain score 1 year after diagnosis.
The mean SF-36 bodily pain score at 1 year was 65, compared with 61 at the time of diagnosis (P = .004), and 75, the population norm (lower scores indicate worse pain). Variables independently associated with pain included pretreatment pain score (P < .001), less education (P = .02), neck dissection (P = .001), feeding tube (P = .05), xerostomia (P < .001), depressive symptoms (P < .001), taking more pain medication (P < .001), less physical activity (P = .02), and poor sleep quality (P = .006). The association between head and neck cancer pain and current smoking and problem drinking did not reach significance (P = .07 and P = .08, respectively).
Aggressive pain management may be indicated for patients with head and neck cancer who undergo neck dissections, complain of xerostomia, require feeding tubes, and have medical comorbidities. Treatment of modifiable risk factors such as depression, poor sleep quality, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse may also reduce pain and improve quality of life among patients with head and neck cancer.