The course of health-related quality of life from diagnosis to two years follow-up in patients with oropharyngeal cancer: does HPV status matter?

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PURPOSE: To investigate the course of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) from diagnosis to 2 years follow-up among patients with oropharyngeal cancer (OPSCC), in relation to human papilloma virus (HPV) status.

METHODS: This study included 270 OPSCC patients. Age, sex, tumor sublocation, tumor stage, HPV status, treatment modality, comorbidity, smoking, and alcohol use were retrieved from medical records. HPV status was positive when p16 and HPV DNA tests were both positive. HRQOL was assessed using the EORTC QLQ-C30/QLQ-H&N35 pretreatment and at 6 weeks, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after treatment. To compare the course of HRQOL between patients with an HPV-positive versus HPV-negative tumor, linear and logistic mixed models were used.

RESULTS: Patients with an HPV-positive tumor (29%) were more often male, diagnosed with a tumor of the tonsil or base of the tongue, treated with single treatment, had fewer comorbidities, were less often current smokers and had lower alcohol consumption. Adjusted for confounders, the course of global quality of life, physical, role, and social functioning, fatigue, pain, insomnia, and appetite loss was significantly different: patients with an HPV-positive tumor scored better before treatment, worsened during treatment, and recovered better and faster at follow-up, compared to patients with an HPV-negative tumor. The course of emotional functioning and oral pain was also significantly different between the two groups, but with other trajectories.

CONCLUSION: The course of HRQOL is different in patients with an HPV-positive tumor versus an HPV-negative tumor, adjusted for sociodemographic, clinical, and lifestyle confounders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4473-4483
Number of pages11
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number8
Early online date17 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Cohort study
  • HPV
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Human papilloma virus
  • Oropharyngeal cancer

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