Friedes C, et al. Cureus 2020.
Objective The study aimed to evaluate the impact of late swallowing dysfunction leading to percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube dependence on the overall survival (OS) in a cohort of locally advanced head and neck cancer patients treated and cured with definitive radiotherapy (RT) and concurrent systemic therapy (CST). Materials and methods A total of 62 patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer were included in the analysis based on the following selection criteria: stage
III, IVA, or IVB disease, treated with definitive RT and CST, no major head and neck surgery, no evidence of local or distant recurrent disease, and at least one post-RT modified barium swallow study. Patients were classified as PEG dependent or PEG independent at the time of the last follow-up. Estimates of OS were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to evaluate the impact of various clinical factors on OS. Results The median follow-up was 48 months (range: 7.6-235 months). The five-year OS was 64.3% in the PEG-dependent group and 86.1% in the PEG-independent group (p=0.022). Age over 70 at diagnosis was also associated with poorer OS (p=0.044). On univariate analysis, PEG dependency maintained a significantly worse OS (hazard ratio [HR]: 2.59; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.11-5.99, p=0.028). On multivariate analysis, PEG dependency (HR: 4.25; 95% CI: 1.33-13.62; p=0.015), advanced N stage (HR: 4.74; 95% CI: 1.17-19.26, p=0.035), and older age at diagnosis (HR: 4.37; 95% CI: 1.21-15.84; p=0.025) were significantly associated with worse OS. Conclusions Late PEG dependency is associated with poor OS in head and neck cancer patients cured with definitive RT and CST. Interventions designed to help head and neck cancer patients maintain swallowing function may result in improved outcomes.