Background: The prognosis of patients with incurable head and neck cancer (HNC) is a relevant topic. The mean survival of these patients is 5 months but may vary from weeks to more than 3 years. Discussing the prognosis early in the disease trajectory enables patients to make well-considered end-of-life choices, and contributes to a better quality of life and death. However, physicians often are reluctant to discuss prognosis, partly because of the concern to be inaccurate. This study investigated the accuracy of physicians’ clinical prediction of survival of palliative HNC patients.
Methods: This study was part of a prospective cohort study in a tertiary cancer center. Patients with incurable HNC diagnosed between 2008 and 2011 (n = 191), and their treating physician were included. Analyses were conducted between July 2018 and February 2019. Patients’ survival was clinically predicted by their physician =3 weeks after disclosure of the palliative diagnosis. The clinical prediction of survival in weeks (CPS) was based on physicians’ clinical assessment of the patient during the outpatient visits. More than 25% difference between the actual survival (AS) and the CPS was regarded as a prediction error. In addition, when the difference between the AS and CPS was 2 weeks or less, this was always considered as correct.
Results: In 59% (n = 112) of cases survival was overestimated. These patients lived shorter than predicted by their physician (median AS 6 weeks, median CPS 20 weeks). In 18% (n = 35) of the cases survival was correctly predicted. The remaining 23% was underestimated (median AS 35 weeks, median CPS 20 weeks). Besides the differences in AS and CPS, no other significant differences were found between the three groups. There was worse accuracy when predicting survival closer to death: out of the 66 patients who survived 6 weeks or shorter, survival was correctly predicted in only eight (12%).
Conclusion: Physicians tend to overestimate the survival of palliative HNC patients. This optimism can result in suboptimal use of palliative and end-of-life care. The future development of a prognostic model that provides more accurate estimates, could help physicians with personalized prognostic counseling.
BACKGROUND: The palliative care needs of people with advanced head and neck cancer pose unique complexities due to the impact the illness has on eating, speaking, appearance and breathing. Examining these needs would help provide guidance about developing relevant models of care and identify gaps in research knowledge.
AIM: To identify and map out the palliative care needs and experiences for people with advanced head and neck cancer.
DESIGN: A scoping literature review following the methods described by the Joanna Briggs Institute.
DATA SOURCES: An electronic search of the literature was undertaken in MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE and CINAHL covering the years January 1996 to January 2019.
RESULTS: People with advanced head and neck cancer often had palliative care needs but there was variability in the timing and access to relevant services. A high prevalence of interventions, for example hospital admissions were needed even during the last month of life. This was not necessarily negated with early engagement of palliative care. Dissonance between patients and family carers about information needs and decision-making was an additional complexity. Studies tended to be descriptive in nature, and often involved a single centre.
CONCLUSION: This scoping review demonstrates the complexity of care for people with advanced head and neck cancer and the issues related to the current healthcare systems. Focus on appropriate referral criteria, increased integration and coordination of care and robust evaluation of specific care components seems key. Linkage between research and service design delivery across teams, disciplines and care settings seems pertinent.
A 74-year-old man presented with recurrent syncope 3 months after definitive surgery for hypopharyngeal cancer. The patient experienced dizziness and severe hypotension on the movement of the neck and head. CT revealed disease recurrence with masses encasing the left internal carotid artery. The patient was diagnosed with vasodepressor type of tumour-induced carotid sinus syndrome (tiCSS) and was referred for palliative intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). Ten days after the commencement of IMRT (25 Gy in five fractions), the symptoms of tiCSS improved, and there was no re-exacerbation of the symptoms till the patient died 56 days after the commencement of RT. Palliative IMRT was feasible and effective for recurrent malignant tiCSS. Given the fact that palliative IMRT is minimally invasive, this option could be widely adapted for patients with such poor general condition and prognosis.
OBJECTIVE: Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) face a unique set of unmet needs. A subset of these patients experience symptom control challenges related to their disease burden and treatments. A multidisciplinary approach involving palliative medicine is underutilized but crucial to identify and address these concerns. There is limited information on palliative integration with head and neck oncology.
STUDY DESIGN: Case series with planned data collection.
SETTING: Academic quaternary care center.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We provide descriptive analyses of patients with HNC, including psychodiagnostic assessment and validated quality-of-life screening, from patients' first encounter at outpatient palliative medicine.
RESULTS: HNC (N = 80) contributed the greatest number of palliative referrals (25%) between 2010 and 2012. This cohort was 74% male and 79% Caucasian with a mean age of 53 years (95% CI, 51.1-54.9) and with stage IV disease of the oral cavity (28%) or oropharynx (31%). Sixty-three percent of patients had no evidence of disease. Seventy-five percent had a psychological history based on DSM-IV criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), and 70% had a history of substance use disorder. The most distressing quality-of-life concerns were pain, housing and financial problems, and xerostomia.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with HNC who were referred to palliative medicine are burdened by multiple physical, psychological, substance use, and social challenges. We recommend comprehensive cancer-specific screening, such as the James Supportive Care Screening, to triage patients to appropriate supportive care services. Palliative care is one of many services that these patients may need, and it should be utilized at any point of the disease trajectory rather than reserved for end-of-life care.
Background: Few large studies describe initial disease trajectories and subsequent mortality in people with head and neck cancer. This is a necessary first step to identify the need for palliative care and associated services.
Aim: To analyse data from the Head and Neck 5000 study to present mortality, place and mode of death within 12 months of diagnosis.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Participants: In total, 5402 people with a new diagnosis of head and neck cancer were recruited from 76 cancer centres in the United Kingdom between April 2011 and December 2014.
Results: Initially, 161/5402 (3%) and 5241/5402 (97%) of participants were treated with ‘non-curative’ and ‘curative’ intent, respectively. Within 12 months, 109/161 (68%) in the ‘non-curative’ group died compared with 482/5241 (9%) in the ‘curative’ group. Catastrophic bleed was the terminal event for 10.4% and 9.8% of people in ‘non-curative’ and ‘curative’ groups, respectively; terminal airway obstruction was recorded for 7.5% and 6.3% of people in the same corresponding groups. Similar proportions of people in both groups died in a hospice (22.9% ‘non-curative’; 23.5% ‘curative’) and 45.7% of the ‘curative’ group died in hospital.
Conclusion: In addition to those with incurable head and neck cancer, there is a small but significant ‘curative’ subgroup of people who may have palliative needs shortly following diagnosis. Given the high mortality, risk of acute catastrophic event and frequent hospital death, clarifying the level and timing of palliative care services engagement would help provide assurance as to whether palliative care needs are being met.
Objective: Evaluate trends in place of death for patients with head and neck cancers (HNC) in the U.S. from 1999 to 2017 based on the CDC WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research) database.
Materials/methods: Using patient-level data from 2015 and aggregate data from 1999 to 2017, multivariable logistic regression analyses (MLR) were performed to evaluate for disparities in place of death.
Results: We obtained aggregate data for 101,963 people who died of HNC between 1999 and 2017 (25.9% oral cavity, 24.6% oropharynx/pharynx, 0.4% nasopharynx, and 49.1% larynx/hypopharynx). Most were Caucasian (92.7%) and male (87.0%). Deaths at home or hospice increased over the study period (R2 = 0.96, p < 0.05) from 29.2% in 1999 to 61.2% in 2017. On MLR of patient-level data from 2015, those who were single (ref), ages 85+ (OR 0.78; 95% CI: 0.68, 0.90), African American (OR 0.73; 95% CI: 0.65, 0.82), or Asian/Pacific Islanders (OR 0.66; 95% CI: 0.54, 0.81) were less likely to die at home or hospice. On MLR of the aggregate data (1999–2017), those who were female (OR 0.87; 95% CI: 0.83, 0.91) or ages 75–84 (OR 0.79; 95% CI: 0.76, 0.82) were also less likely to die at home or hospice. In both analyses, those who died from larynx/hypopharynx cancers were less likely to die at home or hospice.
Conclusions: HNC-related deaths at home or hospice increased between 1999 and 2017. Those who were single, female, African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, older (ages 75+), or those with larynx/hypopharynx cancers were less likely to die at home or hospice.
Head and neck cancer affects vital functions of speech, swallowing, breathing, and appearance. Overall survival remains poor and symptom burden is high for both patients with incurable disease at the end of life and for long-term survivors. Early and concurrent palliative care helps guide treatment decision making and support quality of life during and after treatment. Both narrative competence and directive counsel can affect the concordance of patient goals and tolerance of treatment and outcomes.
PURPOSE: To describe outcomes of Electrochemotherapy as palliative treatment in patients with advanced head and neck (H&N) tumours.
METHODS: Ninety-three patients (120 treatment sessions) with H&N recurrent and/or metastatic neoplasm were treated. Treatment response was assessed 4 weeks after ECT with clinical examination and two months after the first evaluation with a CT scan of the H&N for deep lesions evaluation. The grade of bleeding and pain before, at the end of treatment and one week after ECT were evaluated.
RESULTS: Five percent of complete responses, 40% of partial responses were registered. Disease progression was seen in 20% of patients after the first ECT procedure, the remaining 34% of patients experienced stable disease. A good control of pain and bleeding was obtained, especially in patients with moderate symptoms before the treatment. No toxicities related to ECT were seen.
CONCLUSIONS: ECT is an interesting antitumoral therapy in advanced chemo and radio-refractory H&N neoplasms. ECT is able to reduce frequent symptoms, such as pain and bleeding, improving quality of life without damage to healthy tissue and with limited side effects. Moreover, ECT reduces hospitalization time and may contribute to an overall reduction in healthcare costs associated with advanced H&N cancers care.
The Quality Oncology Practice Initiative has several metrics related to end-of life (EOL) care, including hospice enrollment =3 days, with lower scores signaling better performance. Of privately insured patients with head and neck cancer, 3.5% were enrolled in hospice prior to death and 21.3% spent =3 days in hospice, indicating aggressive EOL care. Patients with late hospice enrollment had higher spending in the last 30 days of life (DOL). Patients in hospice =3 days spent $37,426, while those in hospice >3 days spent $24,418 (P = .002). The largest portion of this difference was attributable to inpatient services. Patients in hospice =3 days spent $22,089 on inpatient services in the last 30 DOL, while those in hospice >3 days spent $8361 (P < .001). Further research is needed to determine if more high-value care can be provided with earlier hospice enrollment and to ensure that goal concordance is included in defining high-value care.
Head-and-neck cancers (HNCs) are significant in India. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to healthcare, and poor treatment infrastructure pose a major challenge in the management of these cancers. The majority of these patients present with advanced stage and are not amenable to curative treatment. The majority have the potential to benefit from palliative care (PC) interventions. Our experience has been that usually the referrals from HNC clinic for PC are at the end-of-life or terminal stage. Unfortunately, in the state of intractable suffering, it is difficult for patients to understand and fully benefit from the role of PC. Developing an effective working relationship and communication between the PC service and referring surgeons or oncologists is a key to foster more timely, appropriate referral, as both patients and clinicians often misunderstand or fail to recognize the role of PC. In preparation for a quality improvement project to improve access to PC for HNC patients at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, we reviewed the needs, challenges, conceptual models, and potential of early integration of PC in advanced HNC patients.
Introduction: The competing (noncancer) deaths have increased with aggressive treatment approach and better disease control in locally advanced head-and-neck cancer.
Aim: The aim of this study is to find incidence, cause and predictors of early competing mortality in locally advanced head-and-neck cancer patients undergoing combined modality therapy.
Subjects and Methods: In this retrospective study, a total of 125 locally advanced head-and-neck patients treated from January 2013 to June 2017 were analyzed. The total number of deaths, cause, and the time of death from the start of therapy was recorded. To study the risk factors of competing deaths, univariate and multivariate logistic regression was applied. Data were analyzed using SPSS v. 24 software.
Results: A total of 51 deaths (31 cancer deaths and 20 competing deaths) recorded at a median follow-up of 16 months (1-62 months). The incidence of early competing mortality was 12% (n = 15) with a median time of 2.7 months from treatment initiation. Sepsis was major cause of early competing death (n = 13). On univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis, competing death was significantly associated with pharyngeal (oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx) site primary (odds ratio [OR] = 3.562; 95% confidential interval [CI] = 1.207-10.517; P = 0.016), and Stage IVA/IVB disease (OR = 5.104; 95% CI = 1.123-23.202; P = 0.021).
Conclusion: Competing deaths is one of the multifaceted problems in locally advanced head-and-neck cancer patients. Sepsis being single most cause of early competing deaths in Stage IVA/IVB pharyngeal and laryngeal cancer.
BACKGROUND: Cancer pain remains a difficult problem, for which opioids are often necessary. At present it is difficult to predict the effectiveness of opioid therapy.
OBJECTIVES: We aim to assess the association between patient characteristics and opioid treatment response in cancer patients, and develop a model to predict probability of response.
SUBJECTS: We used data from two previously published randomized clinical trials, in which patients with head and neck cancer were treated with fentanyl or methadone (total N = 134).
MEASUREMENTS: Treatment success was defined as =50% pain reduction at one and five weeks. We analyzed patient characteristics (age, sex, depression, and anxiety), treatment characteristics (having had chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, methadone, or fentanyl) and pain characteristics (neuropathic and nociceptive).
DESIGN: Based on univariable and multivariable regression analyses determinants of therapy success were assessed. Based on these analyses a prediction model was developed.
RESULTS: Our analyses show that one-week therapy success was associated with methadone (odds ratio [OR] = 5.21), duration of pain in months (OR = 1.12), neuropathic pain (OR = 3.36), and age of the patient in years (OR = 0.95). Inclusion of these four characteristics into our prediction model resulted in an area under the curve of 81.6%.
CONCLUSIONS: Careful analyses of patient attributes, treatment, and pain type of patients with head and neck cancer resulted in a prediction model that allowed to predict short-term pain relief and the opioid treatment response in neuropathic and nociceptive pain owing to cancer.
PURPOSE: This study reports the incidence of distress, the factors associated with distress, and a practical strategy to resolve distress in patients with head and neck cancer who are starting palliative chemotherapy.
METHODS: Adult patients with head and neck cancer planned for palliative chemotherapy underwent distress screening before the start of treatment as part of this single-arm prospective study. Patients who had a distress score > 3 on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) distress thermometer were counseled initially by the clinician. Those who continued to have high distress after the clinician-led counseling were referred to a clinical psychologist and were started on palliative chemotherapy. After counseling, distress was measured again. The relation between baseline distress and compliance was tested using Fisher's exact test.
RESULTS: Two hundred patients were enrolled, and the number of patients with high distress was 89 (44.5% [95% CI, 37.8% to 51.4%]). The number of patients who had a decrease in distress after clinician-led counseling (n = 88) was 52 (59.1% [95% CI, 48.6% to 68.8%]) and after psychologist-led counseling (n = 32) was 24 (75.0% [95% CI, 57.6% to 72.2%]; P = .136). Compliance rates did not differ between the patients with or without a high level of distress at baseline (74.2% v 77.4%, P = .620).
CONCLUSION: The incidence of baseline distress is high in patients awaiting the start of palliative chemotherapy. It can be resolved in a substantial number of patients using the strategy of clinician-led counseling, with additional referral to a clinical psychologist as required. Patients with a greater number of emotional problems usually require psychologist-led counseling.
Advance Care Planning and End of Life discussions are critical in all cancers but are often overlooked or delayed. Head and Neck Cancer patients have the added stigma of visible morbidity and negative quality of life issues. We present a case example and discussion of these issues in the Head and Neck cancer clinic.
SUMMARY: Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is a well established treatment strategy for skin tumuors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of electrochemotherapy in the palliative setting in patients with head and neck malignancies, in terms of improvement of quality of life and in control of pain and bleeding. Twenty-four patients with a loco-regional M0/M1 relapse not suitable for cure with radical intent by surgery or radiotherapy (RT) and not suitable for systemic therapy and/or already treated with it, were admitted to ECT protocol treatment. Clinical features, treatment response, and adverse effects were evaluated. An overall response of 100% was observed. Overall survival probability at 24 months was 46.5% (median OS: 9 months). The multiple application of ECT was associated with improved survival (p = 0.02). Pain, need for medical assistance or dressing and bleeding events was significantly reduced at 1 month after ECT (p #x003C; 0.001). ECT is effective as palliative treatment of non-resectable head and neck malignancies. Its main advantages are improved quality of life, local tumour control and limited side effects.
BACKGROUND: Medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (MRONJ) is an important complication in patients treated with antiresorptive agents such as bisphosphonates and the receptor activator of nuclear factor B ligand inhibitor (denosumab). Treatment of MRONJ is extremely difficult, which makes it a distressing long-term complication.
OBJECTIVES: We report a case of intractable facial pain due to MRONJ that was successfully controlled with selective percutaneous controlled radiofrequency thermocoagulation of the Gasserian ganglion.
SETTING: A 68-year-old woman with breast cancer was diagnosed as having MRONJ. She was very distressed because of jaw pain and infections secondary to MRONJ. Her quality of life (QOL) was severely decreased. Since alleviation of the MRONJ could not be expected within the patient's life expectancy, it was decided to investigate the usefulness of selective percutaneous controlled radiofrequency thermocoagulation of the Gasserian ganglion to control the pain.
RESULTS: After the procedure, the anesthesia was obtained in the distribution of the third branch of the trigeminal nerve, and the pain completely disappeared. Although hypoesthesia was provoked as a complication, it was tolerated by the patient and she was very satisfied. Up to the time of death, there was no recurrence of pain or worsening of the MRONJ.
DISCUSSION: This procedure is a common technique for treating trigeminal neuralgia. Its effect is immediate and long lasting, although it provokes hypoesthesia in treated division, and it is also suited for cancer patients in terminal stage. This case suggests that the procedure was useful for improving the patient's QOL.
Patients with head and neck cancers (HNC) face multiple psychosocial and physical challenges that require multidisciplinary attention and care throughout their disease process. The psychoemotional symptoms may be triggered by cosmetic disfigurement and/or functional deficits related to the cancer itself or cancer-directed treatments. These physical and emotional symptoms can be demoralizing and require acute and long-term professional assistance throughout a patient's lifespan. HNC remains one of the most challenging cancers to treat due to disfigurement, emotional suffering, social isolation, and loss of self-esteem. The emotional and physical symptoms a supportive care team can address are discussed in this chapter.
Background: Conceptual models developed through qualitative research are based on the unique experiences of suffering and individuals' adoptions of each participant. A wide array of problems are faced by head-and-neck cancer (HNC) patients due to disease pathology and treatment modalities which are sufficient to influence the quality of life (QOL). Men possess greater self-acceptance and are better equipped with intrapersonal strength to cope with stress and adequacy compared to women.
Methodology: A qualitative phenomenology study was conducted among seven women suffering from HNC, with the objective to understand their experiences of suffering and to describe the phenomenon. Data were collected by face-to-face, in-depth, open-ended interviews. Data were analyzed using Open Code software (OPC 4.0) by following the steps of Colaizzi process.
Results: The phenomenon that emerged out of the lived experiences of HNC women was "Personified as paragon of suffering.optimistic being of achieving normalcy," with five major themes and 13 subthemes.
Conclusion: The conceptual model developed with the phenomenological approach is very specific to the women suffering from HNC, which will be contributing to develop strategies to improve the QOL of women.
Due to the aging population, neurosurgeons are confronted with an increasing number of very old patients suffering from traumatic brain injury. Many of these patients present with an acute subdural hematoma. There is a lack of data on neurosurgical decision-making in elderly people. We investigated the importance of imaging criteria, patients' wishes, their surrogates' wishes, and patient demographics on treatment decisions chosen by neurosurgeons. An online questionnaire was sent to all German neurosurgical units via the German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC). The survey was based on the reported case of an unconscious 81-year-old patient with an acute subdural hematoma and consisted of 13 questions. Of these questions, nine addressed indication and treatment plan and four evaluated the neurosurgeon's interest in gathering additional information on the patient's social environment and supposed patient's wishes or advance directive. Eighty-five percent of the interviewed neurosurgeons would perform an emergency operation in the presented case. Midline shift (84%), hematoma thickness (81%), and time between traumatic injury and treatment (81%) were considered to be the most important factors for surgical treatment. Gathering information on the social environment of the patient (66%) and discussion with family members (57%) were felt to be either unimportant. Neurosurgeons in Central Europe tend to treat acute subdural hematoma in very old patients based on imaging findings and according to mechanistic views. Social circumstances and patient wishes are considered to be less important. Education of the medical profession and the general public should aim to bring these factors into focus in the decision-making process.