The experience of head and neck cancer survivorship (including laryngectomy): an integrated biopsychosocial model

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Purpose of review

The head and neck cancer (HNC) survivorship experience is unique among cancer populations. This review seeks to explore the HNC survivor experience associated with altered upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) function using principles of survivorship.

Recent findings

HNC survivors experience complex physical, functional, and psychosocial challenges related to UADT dysfunction. Interventions need to address all of these dimensions being mindful of the survivor experience. Studies reveal related unmet needs of both HNC survivors and their family members. An expose of the HNC survivorship experience is timely since 2016/2017 contains the release of landmark position papers and guidelines in the field. These address the unique challenges faced by the HNC population, their management, and the triad psychosocial, functional, and physical survivor burden. Such developments will drive future care.


The head and neck survivorship experience is characterized by complex changes with broad impact when examined in an experiential framework. HNC survivor care demands clinical excellence from multiple disciplines that are positioned to enact recent HNC guidelines and adopt survivorship principles. Future research in this population that explores experiential aspects of altered UADT function would be valuable in informing clinical practice. A biopsychosocial framework is presented for conceptualizing the HNC survivorship experience.

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