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Cancer Nurs. 2016 May-Jun;39(3):238-50. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000281.

Quality of Life in Head and Neck Cancer Patient-Caregiver Dyads: A Systematic Review.

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Author Affiliations: Department of Public Health Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston (Drs Sterba and Zapka); Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester (Ms Cranos); and Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston (Ms Laursen and Dr Day).



As we learn about patient experiences with head and neck cancer, it is also important to consider caregivers so that family-centered care can be improved.


The purpose of this systematic review was to (a) identify the research questions, methods, and measures that have been examined in quality-of-life studies with head and neck cancer patients and their caregivers (dyads) and (b) identify gaps and future directions for research and practice.


We conducted a systematic search of electronic databases using keywords (head and neck cancer, caregiver, quality of life) and included studies that assessed quality of life-related constructs in both patients and caregivers. A dyadic quality-of-life conceptual model guided the summary of observations.


Thirteen studies met eligibility criteria. The most common research questions included comparing patient and caregiver quality of life, examining relationships between personal and clinical factors in 1 dyad member and a quality-of-life outcome in the other, and exploring relationships between interpersonal processes and quality of life. Psychological quality-of-life constructs were most commonly studied. There was substantial variability in study findings, in part due to differences in study questions and samples.


Future research is needed to examine longitudinal interpersonal processes in head and neck cancer. Unique caregiving tasks should be inventoried, and dyadic data analysis techniques should be used.


Head and neck cancer dramatically affects quality of life in patients and caregivers, and quality clinical care requires a dyadic focus. Oncology nurses have a unique opportunity to develop and implement dyadic illness management models for head and neck cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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