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Study Explores Head, Neck Cancer Radiation Completion

Surgery linked to higher chance of completing uninterrupted radiotherapy in Medicare patients

THURSDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with head and neck cancer, having surgery or chemotherapy may influence their likelihood of completing radiotherapy, according to research published in the September Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

Megan Dann Fesinmeyer, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues analyzed data from 5,086 patients ages 66 years and older from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Medicare database who were diagnosed with local or regional head and neck cancer. The researchers used Medicare claims data to assess the timing and duration of their radiotherapy.

The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of patients had an interruption in radiotherapy or incomplete therapy. Patients who received surgery before radiotherapy were less likely to have early discontinuation or interruptions in therapy (29.6 versus 48 percent). Patients with oral, laryngeal, and pharyngeal tumors who underwent chemotherapy along with radiotherapy were less likely to complete their radiotherapy without interruption.

These findings likely point to "selection of patients for surgery who are more likely to complete therapy because of clinical and other patient-specific factors. In contrast, concurrent chemotherapy significantly reduces the likelihood of completion of radiotherapy among patients with oral, pharyngeal, or laryngeal tumors," the authors conclude. "Because chemotherapy appears to reduce the likelihood of completing radiotherapy, future research is needed to identify specific agents, doses, and schedules that specifically reduce the likelihood of completing treatment in community settings."

Two co-authors reported financial relationships with Amgen Inc., which supported this study.

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