Patients' views on the utility of quality of life questionnaires in head and neck cancer: a randomised trial

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Abstract

Objectives

(i) To evaluate head and neck cancer patient perspectives regarding the usefulness of quality of life questionnaires in communicating their health problems to clinicians and (ii) to identify the quality of life questionnaire that head and neck cancer patients find most useful.

Design

Randomised questionnaire study. Patients completed all four validated head and neck cancer quality of life questionnaires – European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Scale (FACT) HN35, Washington quality of life questionnaire, Auckland quality of life questionnaire. Order of questionnaire presentation was randomised to counterbalance order effects.

Setting

Tertiary referral head and neck cancer centre.

Participants

Eighty patients diagnosed and treated for head and neck cancer. Exclusion criteria: blindness, learning difficulties or inability to understand or read English.

Main outcome measures

Patient ratings of perceived usefulness and preferences of studied questionnaires.

Results

Patients reported high relevance to their problems and high ease of understanding of all questionnaires, with FACT scoring highest (79% and 89%, respectively); 58% of participants (67% respondents) would like to complete a questionnaire in clinic, as it would help them describe their health problems to their doctors; 28% of participants did not. Almost half preferred a particular quality of life questionnaire, FACT being most preferred. Length of questionnaire did not affect reported usefulness, but most would prefer a short questionnaire (<20 items).

Conclusions

Patients report that head and neck cancer quality of life questionnaires effectively describe their health concerns. Most are in favour of completing quality of life questionnaires in clinic, as an aid for describing health problems to clinicians. There appears to be a difference between clinicians and patients regarding the perceived usefulness of quality of life questionnaires in the clinic setting, which needs to be highlighted to clinicians.

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