Patient-Reported Health Scores May Predict Head, Neck Cancer Outcomes

Study finds perception of well-being during first year related to long-term survival

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Self-reported physical health changes in the year after head and neck cancer patients are diagnosed may help predict their five-year survival, says a U.S. study.

It included 403 male and female patients (average age 58.7) diagnosed with head and neck cancer between 1995 and 2005. The patients completed general physical health assessment questionnaires when they were diagnosed, and again three, six, nine and 12 months later. They were then followed for up to five years.

Health assessment scores decreased for all patients between diagnosis and the three-month point. Patients who died during the second or third year showed no recovery in their health scores at 12 months. Those who died within the fourth or fifth year showed some recovery, and those who survived five years or longer recovered almost to their baseline scores.

The results, published in the September issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, suggest that a self-reported health score "captures prognostic information related to cancer state," wrote Dr. Mark J. Jameson, of the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, and colleagues.

"It seems intuitive that a patient's perception of well-being would fluctuate (e.g., during intensive cancer therapy versus after recovery from successful treatment), and it seems possible that this fluctuation may be predictive of long-term outcome. This study demonstrates that the change in self-reported health status during the first year is predictive of long-term outcome (i.e., five-year survival)."

The researchers concluded that it may prove useful to include a measure of general health and well-being to the care of patients with head and neck cancer, especially during the first year.

"It has the benefits of refining prognosis and identifying patient needs that may not be clinically obvious in a brief encounter but may have substantial effect on quality of life," the study authors wrote. "Further study is warranted to determine how to best integrate data from patient-reported health assessment into patient care."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about head and neck cancer.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Sept. 15, 2008

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