A systematic review of head and neck cancer quality of life assessment instruments

Bukola Ojo, Eric M. Genden, Marita S. Teng, Kathrin Milbury, Krzysztof J. Misiukiewicz, Hoda Badr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Although quality of life (QOL) is an important treatment outcome in head and neck cancer (HNC), cross-study comparisons have been hampered by the heterogeneity of measures used and the fact that reviews of HNC QOL instruments have not been comprehensive to date. We performed a systematic review of the published literature on HNC QOL instruments from 1990 to 2010, categorized, and reviewed the properties of the instruments using international guidelines as reference. Of the 2766 articles retrieved, 710 met the inclusion criteria and used 57 different head and neck-specific instruments to assess QOL. A review of the properties of these utilized measures and identification of areas in need of further research is presented. Given the volume and heterogeneity of QOL measures, there is no gold standard questionnaire. Therefore, when selecting instruments, researchers should consider not only psychometric properties but also research objectives, study design, and the pitfalls and benefits of combining different measures. Although great strides have been made in the assessment of QOL in HNC and researchers now have a plethora of quality instruments to choose from, more work is needed to improve the clinical utility of these measures in order to link QOL research to clinical practice. This review provides a platform for head and neck-specific instrument comparisons, with suggestions of important factors to consider in the systematic selection of QOL instruments, and is a first step towards translation of QOL assessment into the clinical scene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-937
Number of pages15
JournalOral Oncology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Assessment
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Instruments
  • Measures
  • Quality of Life
  • Questionnaire


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