Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) and oral impairment have a reduced quality of life (QOL) posttreatment compared with patients without cancer, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Previous studies have demonstrated the impact of HNC therapy on various head and neck structures and functionality, but there is a paucity of data in regards to how QOL may be affected among this patient population.

For this study, 40 cancer-free (CF) patients were matched with 40 patients with HNC; patients with HNC were further subdivided into anticancer-therapy naïve (n =20; HNC1) and post radio- or chemotherapy (n=20; HNC2) groups. All participants completed the oral health-related quality-of-life questionnaire (OHIP-14), which measures the patient-perceived impact of oral disorders on 7 aspects of well-being: functional limitation, physical pain, psychological discomfort, handicap, social disability, psychological disability, and physical disability.

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Results of the study demonstrated a moderate impact on QOL for patients with HNC. Patients in the HNC2 group experienced significant negative effects on overall quality of life in regards to functional limitation compared with those in the HNC1 group; no differences were observed for the other QOL measures evaluated by OHIP-14.

Compared with CF patients, patients in the HNC group experienced significant impact on functional limitation and had a higher OHIP-14 score; patients in the HNC2 group experienced greater negative impact on functional limitation, physical pain, and total score compared with patients in the CF group.

The authors concluded emphasizing the “importance of the inclusion of professionals responsible for dental and oral care with the oncologic team to monitor the oral condition of these patients.”


Stuani VT, Santos PSS, Damante CA, et al. Oral health impact profile of head and neck cancer patients after or before oncologic treatment: an observational analytic case-control study [published online January 30, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4066-8