Considerations for Developing Supportive Care Interventions for Survivors of Head and Neck Cancer: A Qualitative Study

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OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to describe considerations for developing supportive care interventions targeted to head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors. METHODS: One-time semi-structured interviews (N = 33) were conducted with HNC survivors who had recently finished treatment (n = 20) and HNC providers (e.g., physicians, nurses; n = 13). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using inductive applied thematic analysis techniques to identify themes. RESULTS: HNC survivors (75% male; M = 61 years old) and providers (54% physicians; 62% female) were unanimously supportive of developing HNC-specific supportive care interventions. Participants described potential benefits of offering interventions at various points throughout the HNC treatment and survivorship trajectory rather than at a single critical time. Many participants preferred group-based interventions because of the high value of peer-support. Others described how group interventions may not be appropriate for all HNC survivors due to risks for negative social comparisons and exacerbated anxiety. Participants suggested topics that should be addressed in HNC-specific interventions including education about acute and long-term side effects, symptom management, nutritional support, relationship/social role changes, grief/loss, and fear of recurrence. CONCLUSIONS: HNC-specific supportive care interventions are critically needed, as survivors experience persistent symptoms and distinct psychosocial concerns that impact quality of life. Findings from this study can inform the development of supportive care interventions targeted to the unique psychosocial concerns of HNC survivors.

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