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Head Neck. 1997 Dec;19(8):675-83.

Baseline and post-treatment assessment of the general health status of head and neck cancer patients compared with United States population norms.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City 52242, USA.



It is a common perception that the overall health of patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) is likely to be poor compared with the general population. This project was undertaken to investigate the pre- and post-treatment, global health status of HNC patients in comparison with age-matched, U.S. population norms using a self-administered general health status survey.


Between July 1, 1993, and May 1, 1996, 180 patients underwent pretreatment and 6 month follow-up evaluation with the standard version of the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). The SF-36 scale scores, means, standard deviations, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for each SF-36 scale as well as for physical-health-component summary scores (PCS) and mental-health-component summary scores (MCS). Comparisons of these scores were made to U.S. population normative data. Pretreatment and 6-month follow-up SF-36 scores were compared.


In the 45-54-year age group, all 8 SF-36 scale scores, the PCS, and MCS scores were significantly worse for the HNC patients in comparison with age-matched norms (p < .05). In the 55-64-year age group, the HNC patients were worse in 5 of the 8 SF-36 scale scores and the MCS score in comparison with age-matched norms (p < .05). In the 65-74-year age group, the HNC patients scored significantly worse in the mental health scale. In the comparison of pretreatment and 6-month follow-up scores, the HNC patients had significant decreases in the physical functioning scale (p = .003) and the PCS score (p = .047). The HNC patients showed significant improvement in the mental health scale (p = .049) and improvement in the bodily-pain scale, which approached significance (p = .053) at 6-month follow-up. The HNC patients showed a marked decrease in general health status with increasing stage of HNC.


This work provides objective support for the perception that many HNC patients are initially seen for treatment with baseline health status functioning significantly below their age-matched contemporaries in the general population. An educated evaluation of global health outcomes following treatment in the HNC patient population must begin with an accurate pretreatment assessment of these parameters. Self-reported health-status assessment (HSA) is a useful means of evaluating global health status in this patient population.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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