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Socio-demographic aspects and treatment-related factors on oral cancer patients' participation in rehabilitation.

Objectives: After resection of an oral carcinoma, patients are faced with physical, psychological, and socioeconomic challenges. Rehabilitation plays an essential role in patients' reintegration into their social and professional environment. This study evaluated whether socioeconomic aspects affect oral cancer patients' participation in rehabilitation treatment.

Materials and methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted with 1,532 patients following surgical treatment of oral cancer during an international multicenter rehabilitation study of the German-Swiss-Austrian Cooperative Working Group on Maxillofacial Tumors using a questionnaire comprising disease-related and psychosocial items postoperatively and at least 6 months after surgery.

Results: Only 35.4% of patients participated in rehabilitation. Age (p<0.001), sex (p<0.001), and marital status (p<0.05) significantly influenced participation in rehabilitation. Postoperative impairment (p<0.05) as well as quality of life (p<0.01) were significantly worse in patients who participated in rehabilitation. Nevertheless, this group of patients returned to work significantly more often, although later, than those who did not participate in rehabilitation (p<0.05).

Conclusions: The findings show social inequalities and suggest a general undersupply of rehabilitative follow-up treatment in patients with oral cancer. More patients, especially older people and women should be referred to rehabilitation.

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