Association Between Patient-Reported Symptoms of Dysphagia and Psychological Distress in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

Kaitlyn Eastburn

Lingyun Lyu

Christine Harrison

Karley Atchison

Kelly Moore

Sarah Pomfret

Jonas Johnson

Marci Nilsen

head and neck cancer, dysphagia, depression, anxiety, patient-reported outcomes
ONF 2022, 49(1), 81-89. DOI: 10.1188/22.ONF.81-89

Objectives: To describe the prevalence of and the association between patient-reported dysphagia and psychological distress (anxiety and depression) in head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors.

Sample & Setting: 228 HNC survivors seen at an interprofessional survivorship clinic in Pittsburgh, PA, between October 2018 and January 2020.

Methods & Variables: Dysphagia was evaluated using the Eating Assessment Tool. Anxiety and depression were measured using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder–7 and Patient Health Questionnaire–8, respectively. Descriptive statistics and multiple linear regression were performed.

Results: 70% (n = 159) of survivors reported problems with swallowing safely and efficiently. Twenty-seven survivors reported symptoms of major depression, 34 reported mild symptoms of anxiety, and 19 reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. After controlling for treatment modality, age, and stage, dysphagia was associated with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Implications for Nursing: Oncology nurses can inform their daily practice by implementing regular assessments for anxiety and depression in HNC survivors reporting symptoms of dysphagia.

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