BACKGROUND: Head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors are particularly vulnerable to the deleterious consequences of lockdown and social distancing . The psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on this group are still unknown, and we want to explore how their quality of life (QoL) has changed in this unique situation . MATERIALS AND
METHODS: An online survey, composed of pandemic-specific items, plus the EORTC QLQ-C30, was administered to a cohort of HNC survivors . Using previously published reference values as a control group, we have evaluated the impact of the pandemic on their QoL . We have also explored the differences between those who had received a total laryngectomy (LP, laryngectomized population) vs other HNC patients, in order to assess the role of tracheostomy in this regard .
RESULTS: One hundred and twenty-one HNC patients completed the survey . The scores of the physical (80.5 vs 85, p = 0.028), role (78 vs 84, p = 0.030), and emotional functioning (76 vs 81, p = 0.041) were significantly different in the two groups, with worse functioning in our patients . Comparing LP with the other HNC patients, social (76.6 vs 88.9, p = 0.008) and physical functioning (75.5 vs 86.1, p = 0.006) were significantly worse in the former group . LP also reported a greater perception that others are afraid to be close to them (1.67 vs 1.32, p = 0.020). No differences were found between LP with and without voice prosthesis .
CONCLUSIONS: Our results show how HNC patients are at high risk for a worsening in QoL because of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.