"I have quality of life...but..." Exploring quality of life and support needs in head and neck cancer: An application of the Transactional Model of Stress Appraisal and Coping. (#285)
Recent clinical studies have demonstrated a relationship between poorer quality of life (QoL) and greater supportive care needs among head and neck cancer (HNC) patients; however the consequence of unmet support needs in this group is poorly understood. This study aimed to explore the experiences of HNC survivors and describe the support needs that influenced QoL and coping responses to unmet support needs.
Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were held with 8 participants previously treated for HNC. Participants were identified through snowball and convenience sampling methods. Interview data was analysed using content analysis (CA). Inductive CA was used to describe support needs and directed CA to describe coping. Key concepts from the Transactional Model of Stress, Appraisal and Coping were used as a coding framework for coping responses.
Results: Support needs that affected QoL related to managing treatment toxicities and interaction with the multidisciplinary team while undergoing treatment, and managing treatment “hangovers” and returning to a normal life after treatment. Six to twelve months post treatment was identified as the time of greatest need for supportive care. Coping with psychological stressors (i.e. depression and anxiety) affected QoL in the first six to twelve months following treatment. Coping was influenced by loss of access to the supportive hospital environment after treatment and resulted in feelings of isolation post treatment.
Conclusions: HNC patients draw on a number of support networks to meet needs while undergoing treatment and post treatment. Patients described difficulties in coping with the side effects of treatment and accessing supportive care when away from the hospital setting. The transactional model of stress appraisal and coping may be useful in understanding the psychosocial outcomes of head and neck cancer; however conclusions from this study are limited by a small and homogenous sample.