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Head and Neck Cancer: Identifying Depression as a Comorbidity Among Patients

Carolyn J. Friedland
CJON 2019, 23(1), 99-102 DOI: 10.1188/19.CJON.99-102

Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) are at high risk for developing depressive symptoms and a major depressive disorder as comorbidities. Depression can affect quality of life (QOL), with data indicating an associated increased risk of recurrence and mortality for patients with HNC. The purpose of this article is to urge oncology nurses to consider depression as an important comorbidity in the care plan for patients with HNC. Resources allocated for depression prevention and screening can decrease symptoms, the incidence of suicidal ideation, and healthcare-associated costs while improving QOL and mortality.


  • The incidence of depression and associated outcomes is highest in patients with HNC.
  • Depression risk consideration includes identification as a comorbidity in HNC care plans.
  • Oncology nursing considerations involve standardized methods for depression prevention and screening in patients with HNC.

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