Best practice in reducing suicide risk in head and neck cancer patients: a structured review

Joshua A Twigg, Jane Anderson, Gerald Michael Humphris, Ioanna Nixon, Simon N Rogers, Anastasios Kanatas

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The treatment of head and neck cancer (HNC) is often radical and the patient’s journey challenging, especially for individuals who are struggling with pre-existing mental health problems and who lack social support. Patients frequently suffer from high levels of emotional distress at some point before, during, or after treatment, and their risk of suicide is markedly elevated. This structured review aimed to identify the extent of the problem, appropriate interventions, and areas for future research. We found that the incidence of suicide among HNC patients was significantly elevated above that of the demographically matched general population. Furthermore, the risk was frequently higher in patients with HNC than in those with cancers in other sites. Despite the clear burden of suicide in patients with HNC, there is an absence of evidence on interventions used to reduce suicidal ideation and the risk of suicide. Recommendations for practice are made, drawing from the wider literature on the prevention of suicide.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
VolumeIn Press
Early online date15 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2020


  • Head and neck cancer
  • Free tissue transfer
  • Suicide risk
  • Oncology
  • Suicide prevention


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