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Oral Oncol. 2012 Sep;48(9):898-904. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2012.03.011. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Global quality of life during the acute toxicity phase of multimodality treatment for patients with head and neck cancer: can we identify patients most at risk of profound quality of life decline?

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistr. 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.



Treatment intensification has improved outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer (HNC), but little has been reported on health-related quality of life (QoL) consequences. We investigated changes in QoL after (chemo)radiotherapy to identify patient characteristics that predict those whose QoL deteriorates most profoundly in the acute post-treatment period.


Patients with locally advanced HNC treated with curative intent received intensity-modulated radiotherapy (60-70 Gy) in this prospective study. (Chemo)radiotherapy was either definitive or adjuvant. Induction chemotherapy consisted of three cycles of docetaxel, cisplatin, and 5-fluorouracil; responders received (chemo)radiotherapy; nonresponders underwent salvage surgery followed by (chemo)radiotherapy if appropriate. Patients completed the EORTC QLQ-C30 and HNC-specific HN35 module before and at the end of (chemo)radiotherapy and 6-8 weeks after therapy completion.


Ninety-five patients participated. At baseline, patients reported significantly lower Global health status, functioning, and symptom scale scores than a reference German population (all p<0.001). At the end of (chemo)radiotherapy, patients had significantly lower QoL scores vs. baseline on all functioning scales (p<0.05). Most symptom and HN35 scores worsened during (chemo)radiotherapy but many recovered 6-8 weeks post-treatment. QoL deteriorated more in patients with high vs. low baseline QoL; no clinical or sociodemographic characteristics of patients most likely to experience a significant deterioration in QoL during treatment were identified.


These standard QoL instruments did not predict patients at risk of profound global QoL impairments during acute treatment. Other than baseline QoL, no patient characteristics associated with significant QoL deterioration were identified.

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