Time for a Paradigm Shift in Head and Neck Cancer Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Head and Neck Cancer
03/06/2020

Han AY, et al. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2020.

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused physicians and surgeons to consider restructuring traditional cancer management paradigms. We aim to review the current evidence regarding the diagnosis and management of head and neck cancer, with an emphasis on the role of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) during a pandemic.

DATA SOURCES: COVID-19 resources from PubMed, Google Scholar, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and the American Head and Neck Society were examined.

REVIEW METHODS: Studies and guidelines related to the multidisciplinary management of head and neck cancer in the COVID-19 setting were reviewed. A total of 54 studies were included. Given the continuously evolving body of literature, the sources cited include the latest statements from medical and dental societies.

RESULTS: The unpredictable fluctuation of hospital resources and the risk of the nosocomial spread of SARS-CoV-2 have direct effects on head and neck cancer management. Using an MDT approach to help define "essential surgery" for immediately life- or function-threatening disease processes in the context of available hospital resources will help to maximize outcomes. Early enrollment in an MDT is often critical for considering nonsurgical options to protect patients and health care workers. The role of the MDT continues after cancer treatment, if delivered, and the MDT plays an essential role in surveillance and survivorship programs in these challenging times.

CONCLUSION: Head and neck cancer management during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a unique challenge for all specialists involved. Early MDT involvement is important to maximize patient outcomes and satisfaction in the context of public and community safety.