The psychological and psychosocial effects of head and neck cancer
Intended for healthcare professionals
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The psychological and psychosocial effects of head and neck cancer

Sian Taylor Nursing student, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich

A diagnosis of head and neck cancer can be physically and emotionally debilitating. The condition and its treatment can affect breathing, eating and communicating, and change physical appearance. Head and neck cancer can have profound effects on psychological and psychosocial well-being and subsequent quality of life. Each person with a facial disfigurement adjusts and adapts to their altered appearance differently – some require little psychological support but others develop depression and anxiety, and become socially isolated. Effective and appropriate psychological and psychosocial care and interventions improve long-term quality of life and well-being for people with head and neck cancer.

This article reviews the literature, based on UK research since 1995 on the psychological and psychosocial effects of facial disfigurement caused by head and neck cancer, including body image and intimacy issues. It discusses how nurses can help to improve people's quality of life, social functioning and encounters, as well as their psychological well-being.

Cancer Nursing Practice. 15, 9, 33-37. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2016.e1340


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 07 July 2016

Accepted: 27 September 2016

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