The association between malnutrition and psychological distress in patients with advanced head-and-neck cancer
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OBJECTIVE: Malnutrition and psychological distress are often seen in patients with head-and-neck cancer, but little is known about the interrelationships between those two symptoms. The present study examined the relationship between malnutrition and psychological distress in patients with advanced head-and-neck cancer. METHODS: Using the Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment, 99 patients with advanced-stage head-and-neck cancer were screened for nutrition status. The patients were also screened for psychosocial distress (using the Distress Thermometer) and for psychosocial issues (using the Problem Checklist). Any relationship between malnutrition and psychosocial distress was determined by regression and correlation analysis. We also used t-tests to compare distress levels for patients with and without specific nutrition-related symptoms. RESULTS: The study group included 80 men and 19 women [mean age: 58.4 ± 10.9 years (range: 23-85 years)]. The correlation between poorer nutrition status and level of psychological distress was significant r = 0.37 (p < 0.001). Specifically, reduced food intake and symptoms were both positively associated with distress: r = 0.27 and r = 0.29 respectively, both significant at p < 0.01. After controlling for the effects of psychosocial problems and pain, nutrition status remained a significant predictor of distress, explaining 3.8% of the variance in the distress scores of the patients (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Malnutrition and symptoms were strongly related to distress in patients with advanced head-and-neck cancer. Our results suggest the need for further research into the complex relationship between nutrition status and distress and into the management of both nutrition and distress in cancer care.
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