The aim of this study was to evaluate (by postal questionnaire) quality of life and function in patients who have had resections of oral cancer and reconstruction by radial forearm flaps. Between October 1987 and December 2002, 258 patients had reconstructions by radial forearm flaps after resection of tumours in the oral cavity. Of these, 139 surviving patients were identified from the database and were sent questionnaires comprising five sections: Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) and -Head and Neck (FACT-HN); University of Washington Quality of Life Scale (UWQoL); Performance Status Scale for Head and Neck Cancer (PSS-HN); and the final section addressed dental rehabilitation and morbidity at the donor site. Sixty-three questionnaires (45%) were returned. In 17 (27%), parts of the questionnaire were incomplete. The median UWQoL score was 623/900, FACT-G was 92/108, FACT-HN was 31/48, and PSS-HN showed that eating in public, understandability of speech and normality of diet were 75/100, 75/100 and 50/100, respectively. The effect of stage and site on quality of life and function did not reach statistical significance. The effect of radiotherapy on speech (p = 0.036) and diet (p = 0.007) was significant. Patients who worried about their cancer returning had a lower UWQoL score (p = 0.016). Ninety percent regarded their arm as disfigured, but 81% felt comfortable wearing short-sleeved shirts. Sensation and function of the hand were reported as normal in 87 and 92%, respectively. We conclude that patients who have had oral cancer have a persistent reduction in quality of life and function long after completion of treatment. The effects can be assessed by postal questionnaire, but the low rate of return (45%) and difficulties with completion reduce the quality of the data. Quality of life and function are essential components of improvements in outcome.
- Functional status
- Health-related quality of life
- Oral cavity
- Radial forearm free flap