Many Head and Neck Cancer Survivors Face Eating Problems

Tue, Jan 17, 2012

Oral Cancer News

Source: HealthDay News

Persistent pain, eating problems and depression are the most common problems experienced by long-term survivors of head and neck cancer, a new study finds.

In the study, published in the Jan. 16 online issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, researchers looked at 337 people who were diagnosed with head and neck cancer from 1995 to 2004 and survived at least five years.

More than 50 percent of the survivors had problems eating because of poor throat functioning, 28.5 percent had symptoms of depression and more than 17 percent had substantial pain, the researchers found.

However, when the long-term survivors were compared to age-matched people in the general population, their average general health was similar, Dr. Gerry Funk, of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, and colleagues explained in a journal news release.

The investigators also found that pain and diet in the first year after cancer treatment were the strongest independent predictors of five-year, health-related quality-of-life outcomes.

Problems with mouth and throat function in head and neck cancer survivors can be due to factors such as neuromuscular changes, anatomic deficits after surgery, pain and dental problems, the researchers noted.

“Early interventions addressing eating issues, swallowing problems and pain management will be a crucial component in improving this patient population’s long-term quality of life, especially in those who are functioning poorly one year after diagnosis,” the study authors concluded.

This story was also covered in a narrative form here:

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

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One Response to “Many Head and Neck Cancer Survivors Face Eating Problems”

  1. Brian Hill Says:

    I wonder who paid for this bit of research to be done. ANYONE working in the H&N community, or who has been a patient could tell you this. I’m really not sure what interventions to improve quality of life can be done for people that have lost their tongue, have had their swallowing mechanisms altered anatomically or damaged by radiation causing dysphagia, or who would not be depressed after the whole process including some living with mild to terrible esthetic issues. This article states the obvious, yet offers no clue as to what might be done to improve QOL for oral cancer patients. Really doctors? What does this contain that is not self evident?

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