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Invited Commentary
December 2016

Effect of Cognition on Quality of Life After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142(12):1152-1153. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.1199

Head and neck cancers (HNCs) currently comprise about 6% of all malignant neoplasms in the United States,1 with an estimated incidence of 61 760 cases in 2016.2 These numbers are expected to continue to increase because of the recent surge in human papillomavirus–related oropharyngeal cancer. Advances in surveillance, diagnosis, and delivery of treatment modalities have improved survival rates and functional outcomes for some HNCs, particularly human papillomavirus–related cancers, which tend to present at younger ages and have superior prognosis.3 These advances in treatment have translated into a larger number of HNC survivors, creating a situation in which more patients are surviving with the resultant functional impairments and disabilities of their cancer and treatment, without adequate recognition of the specific survivorship challenges they face. The integration of the principles of survivorship care in HNC has significantly lagged behind the integration of survivorship care in other common cancers, especially breast cancer. This failure to lead in survivorship care planning is disappointing because HNCs and their treatment are associated with higher degrees of physical, functional, and emotional disability than other cancers due to the alterations in speech, swallowing, and aesthetic qualities that define human characteristics.

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