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09-09-2017 | Head and neck cancers | Article

Long-term patient reported outcomes following radiation therapy for oropharyngeal cancer: cross-sectional assessment of a prospective symptom survey in patients ≥65 years old

Radiation Oncology

Authors: Salman A. Eraj, Mona K. Jomaa, Crosby D. Rock, Abdallah S. R. Mohamed, Blaine D. Smith, Joshua B. Smith, Theodora Browne, Luke C. Cooksey, Bowman Williams, Brandi Temple, Kathryn E. Preston, Jeremy M. Aymard, Neil D. Gross, Randal S. Weber, Amy C. Hessel, Renata Ferrarotto, Jack Phan, Erich M. Sturgis, Ehab Y. Hanna, Steven J. Frank, William H. Morrison, Ryan P. Goepfert, Stephen Y. Lai, David I. Rosenthal, Tito R. Mendoza, Charles S. Cleeland, Kate A. Hutcheson, Clifton D. Fuller, Adam S. Garden, G. Brandon Gunn, MD Anderson Head and Neck Cancer Symptom Working Group

Publisher: BioMed Central



Given the potential for older patients to experience exaggerated toxicity and symptoms, this study was performed to characterize patient reported outcomes in older patients following definitive radiation therapy (RT) for oropharyngeal cancer (OPC).


Cancer-free head and neck cancer survivors (>6 months since treatment completion) were eligible for participation in a questionnaire-based study. Participants completed the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory-Head and Neck module (MDASI-HN). Those patients ≥65 years old at treatment for OPC with definitive RT were included. Individual and overall symptom severity and clinical variables were analyzed.


Of the 79 participants analyzed, 82% were male, 95% white, 41% T3/4 disease, 39% RT alone, 27% induction chemotherapy, 52% concurrent, and 18% both, and 96% IMRT. Median age at RT was 71 yrs. (range: 65–85); median time from RT to MDASI-HN was 46 mos. (2/3 > 24 mos.). The top 5 MDASI-HN items rated most severe in terms of mean (±SD) ratings (0–10 scale) were dry mouth (3.48 ± 2.95), taste (2.81 ± 3.29), swallowing (2.59 ± 2.96), mucus in mouth/throat (2.04 ± 2.68), and choking (1.30 ± 2.38) reported at moderate-severe levels (≥5) by 35, 29, 29, 18, and 13%, respectively. Thirty-nine % reported none (0) or no more than mild (1–4) symptoms across all 22 MDASI-HN symptoms items, and 38% had at least one item rated as severe (≥7). Hierarchical cluster analysis resulted in 3 patient groups: 1) ~65% with ranging from none to moderate symptom burden, 2) ~35% with moderate-severe ratings for a subset of classically RT-related symptoms (e.g. dry mouth, mucus, swallowing) and 3) 2 pts. with severe ratings of most items.


The overall long-term symptom burden seen in this older OPC cohort treated with modern standard therapy was largely favorable, yet a higher symptom group (~35%) with a distinct pattern of mostly local and classically RT-related symptoms was identified.

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