To identify clinical predictors of quality of life (QoL) in a head and neck cancer patient population.
Design, Patients, and Setting
A convenience sample of 570 patients with upper aerodigestive tract cancers were surveyed at a tertiary care oncology clinic and Veterans Affairs otolaryngology clinic.
A self-administered health survey was constructed to collect demographic, health, smoking, alcohol, depression symptom, and QoL information. Tumor site and tumor stage, clinical, and treatment data were abstracted from the patient medical records.
Main Outcome Measures
Quality of life was assessed using the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36-Item Health Survey (SF-36) and the Head and Neck QoL (HNQoL) instrument.
Of the 570 eligible respondents, the presence of a feeding tube had the most negative impact on QoL, with significant decrements in 6 of the 8 SF-36 scales and all 4 HNQoL scales (P<.01). In descending order of severity, medical comorbid conditions, presence of a tracheotomy tube, chemotherapy, and neck dissection were also associated with significant (P<.05) decrements in QoL domains. Patients who took the survey more than 1 year after diagnosis had improved QoL in 7 of 12 domains. Hospital site, age, education level, sex, race, and marital status were also significant predictors of QoL.
There are at least 13 demographic and clinical characteristics that are significant predictors of QoL in patients with head and neck cancer, which should be considered when treating patients and conducting QoL studies in the future.