BACKGROUND - Functional decline in Brazilian patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is associated with impaired recovery, quality of life, and health care costs.
METHODS - Sixty patients enrolled at the regional oncology center in Curitiba, Brazil, were assessed over 6 months for toxicities, nutritional status, anthropometry, fatigue, stress, and functionality.
RESULTS - Severe mid-arm and mid-calf circumference depletion accompanied weight loss. Total fatigue score increased 64% (p < .001), as did perceived stress and serum cortisol (p = .01). Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) dependence doubled, and activities of daily living (ADL) dependence quadrupled (p < .001). Difficulty chewing or swallowing, weight loss, fatigue, perceived stress, and IADL dependence accounted for 48.2% of ADL dependence.
CONCLUSIONS - The physical and psychological impact of HNSCC and its treatment are universally experienced; yet, screening and intervention for symptoms such as fatigue and stress are not typical clinical practice. Moreover, assessment of functional status is usually limited to chewing and swallowing. This study identified symptoms that require systematic intervention and randomized trials with functional independence as the outcome.