Improving Quality-of-Life in Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Patients with head and neck carcinoma were more likely to have a better quality-of-life if they had transoral robotic surgery.

Findings from a recent study suggest that quality-of-life for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck can be affected by the treatment they receive.

In a study published by Plastic and Aesthetic Research, investigators included 45 studies that rated the patients’ health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) after receiving various treatments. Researchers believe their findings could be used as a tool to individualize treatments for certain patients.

Treatments such as microvascular reconstruction, transoral robotic surgery, and adjuvant therapy with chemotherapy and radiation, are common treatments for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Patients with this type of cancer are likely to face side effects from the treatments, such as trouble swallowing, airway obstruction, speech problems, infections, fistulae, aspiration, and the need for permanent tracheostomy, according to the study.

HRQOL is typically measured in terms of side effects from the treatment, such as pain and appearance, among other things. In the study, researchers discovered that taste is commonly affected by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

They also found that radiotherapy can cause mouth dryness and dental problems. Patients who underwent surgery or radiotherapy alone have noted problems with chewing and taste, according to the study.

Researchers found that transoral robotic surgery were able to better preserve HRQOL, and deliver the same beneficial results. Researchers said that not every patient will be a candidate for that surgery. However, alternative or novel treatments could likely impact patient’s quality-of-life, the study concluded.