Evidence for interventions to improve psychological outcomes in people with head and neck cancer: A systematic review of the literature

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Supportive Care in Cancer, 2011, 19 (7), pp. 871 - 881
Issue Date:
2011-07-01
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Purpose In addition to cancer-related distress, people with head and neck cancer (HNC) endure facial disfigurement and difficulties with eating and communication. High rates of alcohol use and socio-economic disadvantage raise concerns that patients with HNC may be less likely than others to participate in and adhere to psychological interventions. This article aims to inform future practice and research by reviewing the evidence in support of psychological interventions for this patient group. Methods We searched CENTRAL, Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and CINAHL in December 2009. Relevant studies were rated for internal and external validity against the criteria of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) US Preventive Services Task Force. Wherever possible, outcomes were evaluated using effect sizes to confirm statistically significant results and enable comparison between studies. Meta-analysiswas planned according to criteria in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews. Levels of evidence for each intervention type were evaluated using AHRQ criteria. Results Nine studies met inclusion criteria. One study was rated 'good' for internal validity and four for external validity. Psycho-education and/or cognitive behavioural therapy were evaluated by seven studies, and communication skills training and a support group by one study each. Significant heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis. Based on a study-by-study review, there was most support for psycho-education, with three out of five studies finding at least some effect. Conclusions Research to date suggests it is feasible to recruit people with HNC to psychological interventions and to evaluate their progress through repeated-outcome measures. Evidence for interventions is limited by the small number of studies, methodological problems, and poor comparability. Future interventions should target HNC patients who screen positive for clinical distress and be integrated into standard care. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
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