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Patient experiences of swallowing exercises after head and neck cancer: A qualitative study examining barriers and facilitators using behaviour change theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Roganie Govender, Caroline E. Wood, Stuart A. Taylor, Christina H. Smith, Helen Barratt, Benjamin Gardner

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559–569
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2017
StatePublished - Aug 2017


King's Authors


Poor patient adherence to swallowing exercises is commonly reported in the dysphagia literature on patients treated for head and neck cancer. Establishing the effectiveness of exercise interventions for this population may be undermined by patient non-adherence. The purpose of this study was to explore the barriers and facilitators to exercise adherence from a patient perspective, and to determine the best strategies to reduce the barriers and enhance the facilitators. In-depth interviews were conducted on thirteen patients. We used a behaviour change framework and model [Theoretical domains framework and COM-B (Capability–opportunity–motivation-behaviour) model] to inform our interview schedule and structure our results, using a content analysis approach. The most frequent barrier identified was psychological
capability. This was highlighted by patient reports of not clearly understanding reasons for the exercises, forgetting to do the exercises and not having a system to keep track. Other barriers included feeling overwhelmed by information at a difficult time (lack of automatic motivation) and pain and fatigue (lack of physical capability). Main facilitators included having social suppor t from family and friends, the desire to prevent negative consequences such as long-term tube feeding (reflective motivation), having the skills to do the exercises (physical capability), having a routine or trigger and receiving feedback on the outcome of doing exercises (automatic motivation). Linking these findings back to the theoretical model allows for a more systematic selection of theory-based strategies that may enhance the design of future swallowing exercise interventions for patients with head and neck cancer.

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