Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Cancer-related pain in head and neck cancer survivors: longitudinal findings from the Head and Neck 5000 clinical cohort

Lookup NU author(s): Iakov Bolnykh, Dr Liya Lu, Professor Linda Sharp



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2024.Purpose: Reports suggest pain is common in head and neck cancer (HNC). However, past studies are limited by small sample sizes and design and measurement heterogeneity. Using data from the Head and Neck 5000 longitudinal cohort, we investigated pain over a year post-diagnosis. We assessed: temporal trends; compared pain across HNC treatments, stages, sites and by HPV status; and identified subgroups of patients at increased risk of pain. Methods: Sociodemographic and clinical data and patient-reported pain (measured by EORTC QLQ-C30 and QLQ-H&N35) were collected at baseline (pre-treatment), 4- and 12- months. Using mixed effects multivariable regression, we investigated time trends and identified associations between (i) clinically-important general pain and (ii) HN-specific pain and clinical, socio-economic, and demographic variables. Results: 2,870 patients were included. At baseline, 40.9% had clinically-important general pain, rising to 47.6% at 4-months and declining to 35.5% at 12-months. HN-specific pain followed a similar pattern (mean score (sd): baseline 26.4 (25.10); 4-months. 28.9 (26.55); 12-months, 17.2 (19.83)). Across time, general and HN-specific pain levels were increased in: younger patients, smokers, and those with depression and comorbidities at baseline, and more advanced, oral cavity and HPV negative cancers. Conclusions: There is high prevalence of general pain in people living with HNC. We identified subgroups more often reporting general and HN-specific pain towards whom interventions could be targeted. Implications for cancer survivors: Greater emphasis should be placed on identifying and treating pain in HNC. Systematic pain screening could help identify those who could benefit from an early pain management plan.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bolnykh I, Patterson JM, Harding S, Watson L-J, Lu L, Hurley K, Thomas SJ, Sharp L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cancer Survivorship

Year: 2024

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 29/02/2024

Acceptance date: 15/02/2024

Date deposited: 11/03/2024

ISSN (print): 1932-2259

ISSN (electronic): 1932-2267

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s11764-024-01554-x


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Cancer Research UK Programme Grant, the Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme (grant number: C18281/A19169).
NIHR (RP-PG‐0707‐10034)