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Quality of Life Experienced by Patients Receiving Radiation Treatment for Cancers of the Head and Neck

Rose, Pauline MN, RN; Yates, Patsy PhD, MSocSci, RN, DipAppSci


The purpose of this descriptive study was to explore the quality of life for 58 outpatients during and after a course of radiation treatment for cancers of the head and neck. Data were collected at three time points: T1 (first week of treatment), T2 (last week of treatment), and T3 (1 month after treatment). Patients completed two measures that assessed physical, emotional, functional, and social aspects of well-being: the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy: Head and Neck (FACT—H&N) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance and post hoc t tests were performed to assess changes in quality of life over the three time points. Results indicated overall increased levels of physical and functional symptoms, head and neck specific concerns, and depression between T1 and T2. However, except for depression, there was some improvement between scores on each of these measures of physical and functional well-being between T2 and T3, although this improvement was not to the pretreatment level. The FACT subscales assessing social and emotional well-being, and the HADS subscale showed no significant changes across time. Implications of this study relate to the ongoing need for interventions to assist patients once they have completed the radiation treatment course, and to improved assessment in some areas of emotional distress.

From the Queensland Radium Institute (Part of the Division of Oncology, Royal Brisbane Hospital) and the Queensland University of Technology, Division of Oncology, and Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland, Australia.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Pauline Rose, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Queensland Radium Institute, Mater Centre, 31 Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane 4101, Queensland, Australia.

Accepted for publication April 16, 2001.

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.