ONS Connections: Neck disability and depressive symptoms linked in patients with head and neck cancer

PHOENIX—Neck disability and depressive scores were significantly correlated among patients with head and neck cancer, according to research that was reported at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Connections: Advancing Care Through Science conference.

Approximately 50,000 individuals are affected by head and neck cancer annually, which accounts for 3% of all cancers in the United States. Oncology nurses need to be familiar with common symptoms that these patients experience in order to provide holistic care.

This study assessed 31 patients with head and neck cancer at baseline, immediately after treatment, and at 6 and 12 weeks post-treatment. The enrolled patients were predominantly male (75%, n=23), Caucasian (84%, n=26), married (68%, n=21), smokers at the time of diagnosis (81%, n=25), and used alcohol at some level (65%, n=20).

Between the four assessment time points, significant changes occurred in pain intensity, ability to work, and sleeping. Between the end of treatment and 12 weeks post-treatment, depression scores significantly decreased (P=.007, Z= -2.679). The composite neck disability index scores and depressive scale scores were significantly correlated at all time points.

Psychological distress significantly decreased in the three months after treatment for head and neck cancer ended. This population of head and neck cancer patients had associations between neck-related function and psychological distress. The psychological distress of these patients was influenced by pain, ability to work, and sleeping.

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