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Psychosocial interventions for patients with head and neck cancer


Semple, C., et al

Subject Keywords: To assess the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions to improve quality of life and psychosocial well-being for patients with head and neck cancer
Topic: Cancer
Chronic Conditions
Mental Health
Chronic Conditions
Type: Article
Region: International (other)

There is a steady rise in the number of people being diagnosed with head and neck cancer. It is more common in men over 60, but the incidence rate is rising, especially in younger adults (men and women under 40). Survival rates for some cancers in the head and neck area are over 50%. As a result, the quality of life of head and neck cancer patients and how they adjust to life after treatment are becoming increasingly important. Unfortunately life can change greatly for many people following treatment of head and neck cancer due to the obvious change in their appearance, or changes in how they speak and eat. Also, this patient group is known to have high rates of smoking and alcohol use. This combination of more people living with and surviving head and neck cancer, and the high degree of cancer-related issues, has led healthcare professionals to develop programmes to support patients with some of the problems they may experience after treatment. The focus of these programmes is often on addressing emotional or social problems related to the patient's cancer and they are known as 'psychosocial interventions'. This review examines the evidence for the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions to improve quality of life or psychosocial well-being.

We identified seven studies, with a total of 542 adult patients who had head and neck cancer. However, many of the studies had shortcomings in their design or reporting. This has made it difficult to draw reliable conclusions.

Overall, this review did not find any improvement in general quality of life or in levels of anxiety and depression following psychosocial intervention.

In conclusion, there was limited good-quality evidence in this area, making it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions. Future good-quality research is required in this field and should target those in need of psychosocial intervention, in order to guide service development.



Rights: © The Cochrane Collaboration
Suggested citation:

Semple, C., et al. (2013) Psychosocial interventions for patients with head and neck cancer [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 6th April 2020].


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