For patients with head and neck cancer (HNC), communication difficulties often create substantial barriers in daily life, affecting a person’s ability to return to work, establish or maintain relationships, or participate in everyday activities.
To examine variables significantly associated with communication in everyday activities, or communicative participation, in adult survivors of HNC.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In a cross-sectional study, from November 1, 2008, through March 18, 2011, participants completed questionnaires about specific experiences and symptoms associated with their health and communication. Seventeen variables were considered in association with communicative participation. Data were collected from adult survivors of HNC residing in a community. Participants completed questionnaires, in English, either online or using paper forms according to their preference. Participants were recruited through support groups, professional email lists, and professional contacts.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Communicative participation and predictor variables were measured using a variety of validated patient-report scales and demographic information. Multiple linear regression analysis was conducted with variables entered using a backward stepwise regression procedure. Variables with significant regression coefficients were retained in the model and reported as change in R2.
One hundred ninety-seven adults (121 males and 76 females; mean age, 61.5 years) participated, all at least 6 months posttreatment of HNC with no additional medical conditions affecting speech. The final model contained 4 significant variables (R2 = 0.462): self-rated speech severity, cognitive function, laryngectomy status, and time since diagnosis. Better communicative participation was associated with less severe speech and cognitive problems; together, these 2 variables explained 42% of the variance in the model (self-rated speech severity, R2 = 0.227, and cognitive function, R2 = 0.193 [0.227 + 0.193 = 0.420 = 42%]). To a lesser extent, better communicative participation also was associated with not having undergone a total laryngectomy surgical procedure (R2 = 0.035) and longer time since diagnosis (R2 = 0.007); full model: R2 = 0.462, P < .001; regression coefficients [SE]: self-rated speech severity 0.551 [0.065], P < .001, R2 = 0.227; cognitive function 0.063 [0.011], P < .001, R2 = 0.193; laryngectomy status 0.285 [0.117], P = .02; and time since diagnosis 0.015 [0.006], P = .02.
Conclusions and Relevance
These results suggest that communicative participation in adults with HNC is associated with self-rated speech severity, cognitive function, whether or not a person has undergone total laryngectomy, and time since diagnosis. Clinicians can use these results to inform their practice in pretreatment counseling, patient education, and rehabilitation for survivors of HNC.