Trends in, and predictors of, swallowing and social eating outcomes in head and neck cancer survivors: A longitudinal analysis of head and neck 5000

Joanne M Patterson, Liya Lu, Laura-Jayne Watson, Sam Harding, Andy R Ness, Steve Thomas, Andrea Waylen, Tim Waterboer, Linda Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the recovery trajectory and predictors of outcome for swallowing difficulties following head and neck cancer treatment in a large prospective cohort.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data from 5404 participants of the Head and Neck 5000 study were collected from 2011 to 2014. Patient-reported swallowing was measured using the EORTC HN35, recorded at baseline (pre-treatment) and 4 and 12 months post-baseline. Mixed-effects linear multivariable regression was used to investigate time trends, compare cancer sites, and identify associations between clinical, socio-demographic and lifestyle variables.

RESULTS: 2458 participants with non-recurrent oral (29%) oropharyngeal (46%) and laryngeal (25%) cancer were included in the analysis. There was a clinically significant deterioration in scores between baseline and four months for swallowing (11.7 points; 95% CI 10.7-12.8) and trouble with social eating (17.9 points; 95% CI 16.7-19.2), but minimal difference between baseline and 12 months. Predictors of better swallowing and social eating were participants with larynx cancer, early-stage disease, treatment type, age, gender, co-morbidity, socio-economic status, smoking behaviour and cohabitation.

CONCLUSION: Swallowing problems persist up to a year after head and neck cancer treatment. These findings identify disease and demographic characteristics for particularly vulnerable groups, supporting the need for holistic interventions to help improve swallowing outcomes. People diagnosed with head and neck cancer at risk of severe eating and drinking problems following treatment can be identified earlier in the pathway, receive more accurate information about early and late post-treatment side-effects, which can inform shared decision-making discussions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105344
Pages (from-to)105344
JournalOral Oncology
Early online date20 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication presents data from the Head and Neck 5000 study. The study was a component of independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research scheme (RP-PG-0707-10034). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. Core funding was also provided through awards from Above and Beyond, University Hospitals Bristol Research Capability Funding and the NIHR Senior Investigator award to Professor Andy Ness. Human papillomavirus (HPV) serology was supported by a Cancer Research UK Programme Grant, the Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme (grant number: C18281/A19169).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


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