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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

To eat is to practice-managing eating problems after head and neck cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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PURPOSE: The purpose of this qualitative study was twofold: (1) to explore head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors' experiences of everyday life with eating problems after cancer treatment and (2) to explore their experiences of participating in a multidisciplinary residential rehabilitation program with a primary focus on physical, psychological, and social aspects of eating problems after treatment.

METHODS: Semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted with 40 Danish HNC survivors who participated in a 5-day residential rehabilitation program with follow-up after 3 months. The transcribed interviews were analyzed through qualitative content analysis.

RESULTS: Physical nutrition impact symptoms and unmet needs for support were frequent. Participants experienced a feeling of loss due to impaired eating abilities. Eating had become an obligation or a training situation, and the eating problems challenged the relationship with their relatives when well-meaning encouragement was perceived as a pressure. Social eating was a challenge, and this often led to social withdrawal. The residential program was a safe and supportive environment to practice eating skills, and participants benefited from meeting peers. The program provided participants with knowledge and skills that many of them had been missing during and after treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Eating problems after treatment have substantial effects on the everyday life of HNC survivors. A multidisciplinary residential rehabilitation program may be beneficial to meet their rehabilitation needs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: The results are useful for future planning of rehabilitation services and clinical studies that may contribute to improving current clinical practice and benefit HNC survivors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of cancer survivorship : research and practice
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)792-803
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Eating problems, Head and neck cancer, Nutrition impact symptoms, Quality of life, Rehabilitation, Survivorship

ID: 57923900