Studying Malnutrition-Related Factors in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer Following Surgery

Leila Vazifeh Mostaan, Sharifeh Haghjoo, Kazem Anvari, Mohammad Safarian, Kamran Khazaeni, Monavar Afzal Aghaei



Background: Nutritional dysfunction with or without aspiration is a common complication following head and neck cancer (HNC) surgery and patients frequently present with weight loss secondary to dysphagia and malnutrition.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of weight loss and malnutrition in patients with HNC following surgery through the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) scale.

Methods: A total of 28 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of head and neck cancer mainly of the oral cavity referring for surgery for the first time were enrolled. A researcher-designed questionnaire was used for data collection. Further, a single nutritionist evaluated each patient’s nutritional status before and 6-8 weeks' post-surgery according to MUST to measure the level of malnutrition. Significance level was set at p<0.05.

Results: Among the subjects, 57% were younger than 70 years; 61% were in stage II of cancer while the rest were in stage III. Weight, body mass index (BMI), serum hemoglobin, and albumin levels showed a significant reduction following surgery (p<0.05). Specifically, 18% had less than 5%, 36% had 5-10%, and 46% had >10% weight loss. According to MUST scale, 18% of Patients with HNC had low, 25% had moderate, and 57% had high risk of malnutrition. A significant relationship was found between severe malnutrition and patients older than 70 years of age.

Conclusion: In head and neck cancer patients, weight loss increases the morbidity and mortality, therefore nutritional interventions should be initiated before cancer treatment begins and these interventions need to be ongoing after completion of treatment to ensure optimal outcome.


Head and Neck Cancer (HNC); Malnutrition; Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool, MUST; Surgery; Weight loss

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