Quality-of-Life Outcomes in the Evaluation of Head and Neck Cancer Treatments | Head and Neck Cancer | JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery | JAMA Network
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Original Article
June 2001

Quality-of-Life Outcomes in the Evaluation of Head and Neck Cancer Treatments

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine (Drs Schwartz and Yueh), and the Departments of Health Services and Epidemiology, University of Washington (Dr Patrick), and the Health Service Research and Development Service, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System (Dr Yueh), Seattle, Wash.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001;127(6):673-678. doi:10.1001/archotol.127.6.673

Objectives  To review the published literature to evaluate the design, use of terminology, and interpretation of results in studies using quality-of-life (QOL) instruments to measure differences between head and neck cancer treatments at a point in time or to report changes over time in one or more treatment groups.

Data Source  MEDLINE search for subject headings "head and neck neoplasms" (as a main topic) and "quality of life" or "health status" restricted to English-language sources and a 10-year period from 1989 to 1999.

Study Selection  Four hundred forty-five abstracts were reviewed to find articles using an instrument to compare head and neck cancer therapy groups with a QOL outcome (13.7% included).

Data Extraction  Two readers reviewed each article to determine how terminology was used, if a scientific study design was used, and if differences or changes in scores were clinically interpreted.

Results  Sixty-one articles were reviewed. Forty different instruments were used. Terminology was used inconsistently in 21 (34.4%) of the 61 articles. A scientific study design was used in only 11 (18.0%) of the 61 articles (P<.001). A clinical interpretation of results was given in 16 (26.2%) of the 61 articles (P<.001).

Conclusions  While QOL outcomes show promise for assisting with treatment decisions in head and neck cancer therapy, few studies using instruments to measure QOL outcomes are hypothesis driven and clinical interpretations of results are not commonly provided. We recommend that future studies identify the construct to be measured, specify comparator groups and hypotheses a priori, and provide clinical interpretations of results.