Objectives: Surgical and radiotherapy treatment for cancer of the oral cavity can result in dramatic aesthetic and functional sequelae partially avoidable by reconstructive techniques. Aim of this study is to evaluate the quality of life (QL) in patients treated in our department for cancers involving the oral cavity.
Materials and methods: Study was designed as a prospective evaluation of pre- and post-operative QL at 6 months and 12 months to assess variations during follow-up using the EORTC QLQ C30 and EORTC QLQ H&N35 questionnaires. Between September 2010 and April 2011, 30 patients (20 male and 10 female) with different location and TNM stage oral cancer were treated by tumor resection and/or neck dissection. Defect was reconstructed by microvascular free flaps (radial forearm flap in 19 cases, anterolateral thigh flap in 6 cases and fibular flap in 5 cases). In 23 patients the treatment was supplemented with radiotherapy, in 16 patients with chemotherapy and in 13 with both of them. All the pre- and post-operative (6 and 12 months) scores of the questionnaires were evaluated. Statistical analysis was performed in SPSS ® statistical software 15.0, using a Wilcoxon non-parametric test. An absolute change of 10 or more points corresponds to a clinically important effect on a functional scale or symptom scale (significant differences were assumed when p < 0.05).
Results: In the first six months after surgical treatment, there was a temporary significant deterioration in several symptoms and functional scales. However, one year after treatment, most of them improved.
Conclusion: Quality of life and functional outcomes should become standard outcome measures in the comprehensive assessment of oral cancer therapy. The use of free flaps as reconstructive technique after oncologic surgery is an adequate option and provides an optimal functional outcome and quality of life.
Key words: oral cancer; quality of life; free flap