Review| Volume 58, ISSUE 9, e6-e15, November 2020

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


      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.


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