Patterns of Multidisciplinary Care of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Medicare Patients.

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IMPORTANCE: Multidisciplinary care (MDC) yields proven benefits for patients with cancer, although it may be underused in the complex management of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

OBJECTIVE: To characterize the patterns of MDC in the treatment of HNSCC among elderly patients in the US.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This nationwide, population-based, retrospective cohort study used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked data from January 1, 1991, to December 31, 2011, to identify patients 66 years or older diagnosed with head and neck cancer and determine the dates of diagnosis, oncology consultations, treatment initiation, and speech therapy evaluation in addition to MDC completion. Multidisciplinary care was defined in a stage-dependent manner: localized disease necessitated consultations with radiation and surgical oncologists, and advanced-stage disease also included a medical oncology consultation, all before definitive treatment. Data were analyzed between December 2016 and September 2020.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Rates of MDC across all subsites of head and neck cancer as measured by the presence of an evaluation for each oncologist on the MDC team and its effect on treatment initiation.

RESULTS: This cohort study assessed 28 293 patients with HNSCC (mean [SD] age, 75.1 [6.6] years; 67% male; 87% White) from the SEER-Medicare linked database. The HNSCC subsites included larynx (40%), oral cavity (30%), oropharynx (21%), hypopharynx (7%), and nasopharynx (2%). Overall, the practice of MDC significantly increased over time, from 24% in 1991 to 52% in 2011 (P < .001). For patients with localized (stage 0-II) tumors, 60% received care in the multidisciplinary setting, whereas 28% of those with advanced-stage disease did. A total of 18 181 patients (64%) were treated with initial definitive nonsurgical therapy across all stages. Regardless of stage and subsite, few patients (2%) underwent evaluation by a speech-language pathologist before definitive therapy. Multidisciplinary care prolonged the time to initiation of definitive treatment by 11 days for localized disease and 10 days for advanced disease.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This cohort study found that most elderly patients with localized HNSCC received MDC, whereas few patients with advanced-stage disease received such care, although a significant proportion received adjuvant therapy. Multidisciplinary care may prolong time to initiation of definitive treatment with an uncertain impact. Consultation with a speech-language pathologist before definitive therapy was rare.





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Medicine and Health Sciences | Oncology




Department of Radiation Oncology

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