Quality of life (QoL) is an important consideration in the management of individuals with head and neck cancer. The poor prognosis and significant impact of treatment modalities on function of the salivary glands, larynx and pharynx combine to make hypopharyngeal carcinoma a particularly challenging condition to treat. The impact of diagnosis and treatment on health related QoL is substantial. There is increased understanding that organ preservation does not necessarily correlate with function preservation as was previously expected. The impact on QoL, of chemoradiotherapy (CRT) or surgery, must be taken into account when managing individuals and deciding on treatment. Several QoL tools have been developed to understand the subjective consequences of functional impairment. The number and quality of studies specifically for hypopharyngeal carcinoma are low. The effects on QoL differ for surgery and CRT, as one would expect, but there are no demonstrable significant differences in most domains. Those treated with CRT show higher levels of dry mouth and sticky saliva, while those patients who have undergone surgery report greater levels of sensory disturbance. Significant differences were not noted in speech outcomes or global (general) health scores. The psychological morbidity and lack of good coping strategies are thought to play an important role in the high suicide rates of these patients (12-fold higher than the average population in the USA). Large, long-term, longitudinal studies of patients surviving treatment, answering both general and disease-specific questionnaires are required to direct clinicians towards the least morbid treatment strategies. The ability to cope and the availability of emotional support probably have a greater impact on subjective QoL than the functional outcomes of treatment.
- Chemoradiotherapy/adverse effects
- Hypopharyngeal Neoplasms/surgery
- Postoperative Complications
- Quality of Life
- Radiotherapy/adverse effects