End Stage Palliative Care of Head and Neck Cancer: a Case Study

  • Published : 2015.03.04


Background: Locally advanced head and neck cancer is generally incurable and has a short survival rate. This study aimed to evaluate symptom relief, disease response, and acute toxicity after palliative hypo-fractionated radiotherapy and long-term survival in affected patients. Materials and Methods: Between January 2011 to December 2011, 80 patients who were histopathologically diagnosed as having stage III or stage IV head and neck squamous cell carcinoma based on Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status 1-3, were offered palliative radiotherapy (20 Gy/5Fr/5 Days). Later these patients were evaluated on 30th day after completion of treatment for disease response based on World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria and palliation of symptoms using symptomatic response grading and acute toxicities by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG). Many patients were given post radiation therapy (RT) palliative chemotherapy for appropriate palliative care and a few patients were selected for further curative RT. The overall survival was also evaluated among this group of patients with last follow up date of 1st May, 2014. Results: The most common presenting complaint was pain followed by dysphagia. Most patients (60-70%) had appreciable relief in their presenting symptoms. A good response was observed in the majority following palliative RT; a few patients had progressive disease and some had stable and regressed disease. None of the patients experienced radiation toxicity that required hospital admission. Almost all showed grade one and two acute skin and mucosal toxicity one month after completion of treatment. The mean survival days for patients given only hypofractionated palliative RT was 307 days, those with post palliative RT and palliative chemotherapy was 390 days and patients who went on to receive further palliative RT and curative RT dose had significantly overall survival of 582 days. Conclusions: Advanced head and neck cancer should be identified for suitable palliative hypofractionated radiotherapy to achieve acceptable symptom relief in a great proportion of patients and should be followed by palliative chemotherapy or curative RT in suitable cases for long-term symptom-free survival.


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