PI: Anna Arthur
Kalika Sarma, MD – Carle Physician Mentor
Program Years: 2017, 2018, 2019
At least 90% of head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors will experience significant symptom burden that will impact their ability and/or desire to eat as a result of tumor location, treatment with chemoradiation and/or surgical resection of the tumor. Symptoms prevalent in this population that may persist long after treatment include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), ulcerations of the mucosal membranes (mucositis), dry mouth (xerostomia), and taste alterations. Because these symptoms are likely to compromise food intake, they are termed nutrition impact symptoms (NIS). Few studies have examined the impact of NIS on nutrition and quality of life in HNC survivors and in those studies, only acute effects were investigated. Even fewer studies have taken a mixed-methods approach to examining this issue. Identifying patients at high-risk for nutritional and/or functional decline secondary to chronic toxicities of chemoradiation is key to developing interventions aimed at improving nutritional status and quality of life in this survivor population. The long-term goal of this research is to be able to identify and manage NIS in HNC survivors in order to improve nutritional status and quality of life. The overall objective for this project is to determine how chronic symptoms are associated with quality of life and nutrition in post-treatment HNC survivors. A mixed-methods study is used that will combine longitudinal and cross-sectional quantitative data with qualitative, semi-structured interviews of HNC survivors. The proposed work will result in findings that can be used to develop translational research studies aimed at better managing symptom burden and improving survivorship outcomes in the HNC population.