Head & Neck Cancer Body Image Research Program

View of Charleston at night

The primary goal of the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Head and Neck Cancer Body Image Research Program is to improve quality of life for head and neck cancer survivors through the development of novel interventions to prevent and treat head and neck cancer-related body image disturbance. Our research also aims to deepen our understanding of the underlying mechanisms responsible for the development of head and neck cancer-related body image disturbance. In so doing, we seek to advance our fundamental understanding of adaptation to treatment paradigms that result in substantial life-altering morbidity with changes in highly visible, socially significant parts of the body that are integral to self-conception, communication, and interpersonal relationships. Ultimately, we hope that by developing targeted behavioral interventions that modify the structure and processes by which head and neck cancer care is delivered, we can decrease psychosocial morbidity and improve quality of life in this patient population.

Our research team is currently pursuing multiple lines of head and neck cancer-related body image disturbance research, including:

  1. Characterizing the epidemiology of body image disturbance among patients with head and neck cancer to create clinically-relevant risk prediction models.
  2. Developing, validating, and implementing Inventory to Measure and Assess imaGe disturbance Head & Neck (IMAGE-HN) as a novel patient-reported outcome measure that can be used to diagnose body image disturbance among head and neck cancer survivors and evaluate response to therapy.
  3. Determining the underlying oncologic, cognitive, behavioral, and psychological mechanisms responsible for the development of head and neck cancer-related body image disturbance.
  4. Developing novel therapeutic approaches for head and neck cancer survivors suffering from body image disturbance.

Our multidisciplinary team of investigators includes clinicians, psychologists, behavioral scientists, and healthcare delivery researchers with expertise in head and neck cancer, telemedicine, dissemination and implementation research, mHealth, and clinical trials. Because patient-centered care is critical to our research program, our team includes patient advocates and supports patient and stakeholder engagement to extend the scientific and clinical impact of our research. This website provides information regarding the following:

Building a Renewed Image After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Study logo

Clinical Trials

We are currently recruiting patients for the BRIGHT study, a trial funded by the National Cancer Institute to evaluate whether a new tailored, tele-cognitive behavioral therapy intervention can decrease head and neck cancer-related body image disturbance. Head and neck cancer survivors who were treated with surgery are eligible for this study. If you are interested, please contact Lisa Heidelberg at 843-876-1176 or heidelbe@musc.edu.