Lymphedema and Trismus after Head and Neck Cancer, and the Impact on Body Image and Quality of Life.



To assess the prevalence of chronic lymphedema and trismus in patients > 6 months after head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment, and to explore how the severity of these conditions correlates with body image and quality of life.


Lymphedema prevalence was 94.1% (95% CI 0.86-0.98), with a median severity score of 9 (range 0-24). Trismus prevalence in this sample was 1.2%. The median BIS score was 2, indicating a positive body image. The UW-QoL score showed a good QOL with a median of 100. Only the domain of saliva and overall related health had a lower median of 70 and 60, respectively. There was no correlation between lymphedema and body image (r = 0.08, p = 0.544). Patients with higher lymphedema scores reported poorer speech with a moderate correlation (r = -0.39, p = 0.003).


The cross-sectional sample included 59 patients, treated for HNC between six months to three years ago. Physical measurements were performed to assess the presence of external lymphedema and trismus (<36 mm). Furthermore, participants completed two questionnaires regarding body image (BIS) and quality of life (UW-QoL V4).


Lymphedema is a highly prevalent, but moderately severe late side-effect of HNC with a limited impact on quality of life domains except for speech, in our cohort.

More about this publication

  • Volume 16
  • Issue nr. 3
  • Publication date 03-02-2024

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