Impact of illness perception, mental adjustment, and sociodemographic characteristics on return to work in patients with head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Support Care Cancer. 2020 Jul 28. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05640-5. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: To examine the effects of emotional distress, illness perception, and mental adjustment on return to work (RTW) among patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) and identify factors associated with RTW.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study with convenience sampling was conducted in Taiwan. Structured questionnaires were used to collect data on RTW status and to explore possible factors related to RTW. RTW status was assessed by a single question. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, illness perception was assessed by the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire, and mental adjustment was assessed using the Mini-mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale. Sociodemographic and disease background data were also collected and analyzed. Factors related to RTW were identified by multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: A total of 150 patients with HNC were recruited into the study. Of them, 58 (38.7%) returned to work after treatment. Compared to those who did not RTW, patients who did RTW had lower levels of emotional distress (anxiety and depression), better illness perception (cognitive illness representations and illness comprehensibility), and better mental adjustment (hopelessness and helplessness, anxious preoccupation, avoidance, and fatalism). Multivariable analysis indicated that anxiety (OR = 0.863, p < 0.05), avoidance (OR = 1.280, p < 0.001), cognitive illness representations (OR = 0.891, p < 0.01), illness comprehensibility (OR = 1.271, p < 0.05), higher education level (OR = 3.048-3.609, p < 0.05), married status (OR = 5.220, p < 0.05), tumor site in oral cavity (OR = 5.057, p < 0.05), and no reconstruction (OR = 3.415, p < 0.05) were significantly associated with RTW.

CONCLUSION: The issue of RTW among patients with HNC is related to multidimensional factors, including sociodemographic, psychological, and disease-related situations. We suggest that programs for emotional rehabilitation and occupational counseling need to be developed to assist patients with HNC to RTW at an early stage.