Long-term quality of life in head and neck cancer patients

A systematic review

Langzeitlebensqualität bei Patienten mit Kopf-Hals-Tumoren



Although a head and neck cancer prognosis does not have a promising long-term prognosis, approximately 50% will survive at least 5‑years, depending on the type of cancer. Evidence on the quality of life among these long-term survivors is sparse.


A PubMed search was conducted to find articles that reported quality of life outcomes for head and neck cancer patients surviving 5‑years and longer.


8 studies from a mix of countries using 4 different measurement tools were identified. All but two had very small patient numbers. Results indicate that survivors have especially difficulties with sleeping, pain, fatigue, dyspnoea, swallowing and chewing; functional scores were sometimes lower (worse) than results from general populations, but also the same in one case.


A clear picture of the quality of life among this unique patient group is still lacking. There is evidence that some patients have difficulty with swallowing and dry mouth, as well as problems with sleep, fatigue, pain and dyspnoea. A study to include large numbers of these unique patient group is warranted.

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The authors thank Leonie Berger for her assistance with part of the abstracts.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katherine Taylor.

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Conflict of interest

K. Taylor and S. Singer declare that they have no competing interests.

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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The German version of this article can be found under https://doi.org/10.1007/s00761-019-0528-y.

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Taylor, K., Singer, S. Long-term quality of life in head and neck cancer patients. Onkologe 25, 125–131 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00761-019-0527-z

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  • Quality of life
  • Cancer
  • Survival
  • Side-effects
  • Review
  • Long-term