Health-related quality of life (QoL), a critical
issue for cancer survivors, is related to region of residence. Overall health
and wellbeing are traditionally lower in urban areas; however, the literature
suggests urban cancer survivors have higher levels of psychosocial wellbeing. The
issue of regionality and QoL is particular to each country, and is an emerging
topic in Ireland. The present study explores the QoL of head and neck cancer
(HNC) survivors in Ireland, paying special attention to region of residence.
Respondents for the Support Needs of Survivors of Head & Neck Cancer (SuN)
survey were identified from the Irish National Cancer Registry. Respondents
self-reported QoL using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) with
Head and Neck module. Region is measured by patient-reported area of residence.
We used linear regression to estimate the relationship of rurality to total
FACT score, as well as FACT domain scores: physical, emotional, functional, and
social/family wellbeing, and questions specific to HNC.
The sample includes 583 HNC survivors who were 8 months to 18 years
post-diagnosis. Controlling for sociodemographic and clinical variables, HNC
survivors living in rural areas have a higher total FACT score than their
counterparts in urban areas. Physical, emotional, and functional wellbeing
subscale scores and the Head and Neck module score were also higher for rural
By closely examining regionality, this project provides novel work in the
neglected area of cancer survivorship in rural versus urban Ireland. The
findings suggest that there is a significant, positive association between
rural residence and HNC survivorsí QoL. Understanding how rurality and
urbanicity interact with the life experiences of cancer survivors will allow
healthcare professionals and policy makers to better serve these populations.