Symptom experience and regaining normality in the first year following a diagnosis of head and neck cancer: A qualitative longitudinal study

Alexandros Molasiotis, Margaret Rogers

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Symptom experiences and their interference with life are not well-researched in head and neck cancer patients. The aim of the study was to explore and understand the experience of receiving treatment for head and neck cancer with particular focus on symptom experiences over a one year period from diagnosis. Methods: A qualitative study design was used with a heterogeneous sample of 16 patients with head and neck cancer. Interviews, conducted at four time points over 12 months, provided a total of 50 interview datasets. Results: Key themes derived include nutritional concerns, tiredness, and experiences related to the radiotherapy mask and regaining normality. These data highlight issues of importance in the first year of living with head and neck cancer: impact of nutritional changes on the lives of patients, including weight loss, dysphagia, xerostomia and taste changes; debilitation from ongoing fatigue; unpreparedness for and distress from the radiotherapy mask; and attempts to maintain a normal life amidst the interference of symptoms. Conclusion: Multitude of symptoms impact the patients' life, particularly nutritional symptoms and fatigue, and interfere with the patients' survivorship and quality of life. The changing nature of symptoms over the first year from diagnosis in head and neck cancer patients and the identified issues in the attempt to normalize their lives need to be incorporated more fully into the supportive care of head and neck cancer patients in order to improve their experience and enhance their survivorship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-204
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dysphagia
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Nutritional concerns
  • Radiotherapy mask
  • Xerostomia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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