Purpose: Little is known about whether health literacy is associated with affects certain key outcomes in head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors. We investigated (i) the socio-demographic and clinical profile of health literacy and (ii) associations among between health literacy and self-management behaviours, health-related quality of life (HRQL) and fear of recurrence (FoR) in HNC survivors. Methods: A population-based survey was conducted in Ireland. Health literacy was assessed using a validated single-item question. Socio-demographic, clinical and psychosocial outcome variables (FoR, self-management behaviours, HRQL) were collected. Multivariable linear regression was performed to estimate associations between health literacy and each psychosocial outcome. Results: Three hundred ninety-five (50%) individuals responded to the survey. Inadequate health literacy was evident among 47% of the sample. In adjusted models, HNC survivors with inadequate health literacy had significantly lower levels of self-management behaviours in the domains of health-directed behaviour, positive and active engagement in life, self-monitoring and insight, constructive attitudes and approaches and skills and technique acquisition. Inadequate health literacy was independently associated with lower functional well-being and HNC disease-specific HRQL. FoR was also significantly higher among those with inadequate health literacy. Conclusions: HNC survivors with inadequate health literacy have lower levels of self-management behaviours, lower functional HRQL and increased FoR compared to those with adequate health literacy. Implications for Cancer Survivors: Clinicians, healthcare providers and those developing interventions should consider how inadequate health literacy among HNC survivors might affect post-treatment outcomes when developing services and providing support for this group.
- Fear of recurrence
- Head and neck cancer
- Health literacy
- Health-related quality of life