AIM: This paper is a report of a study to explore the changes and challenges to patients' lifestyles following treatment for head and neck cancer. BACKGROUND: Head and neck cancer affects some of the most basic aspects of daily functioning, such as eating and speaking. There has been a rapid increase in the number of studies on the quality of life for people with head and neck cancer, but most studies have used quantitative methodology. METHODS: Using a qualitative approach, data were collected in 2004 using semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 10 participants who had completed treatment 6-12 months earlier for head and neck cancer. A thematic analysis was employed to interpret the findings. FINDINGS: Following thematic analysis seven broad themes were identified, five of which covered areas of changes and challenges to participants' lifestyles following treatment. These were: physical changes, concerns about cancer, work and day-to-day tasks, interpersonal relationships and social functioning. The concerns and challenges experienced following treatment were not limited to one aspect of an individual's lifestyle but spanned a number of the themes identified, highlighting the complexity of needs following treatment for head and neck cancer. The other two themes concerned personal attributes that facilitated or inhibited posttreatment coping and specific information needs in the posttreatment period. CONCLUSION: Specific posttreatment concerns and challenges cannot be viewed as unitary or discrete aspects of life, but should be considered within a biopsychosocial context, to address patients' needs holistically.