Patient-reported outcome measures in patients undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Support Care Cancer. 2020 Sep 19. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05778-2. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: Head and neck (H&N) cancer patients experience significant acute side effects from treatment. This study evaluates prospectively collected patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in H&N patients undergoing radiotherapy (RT) to assess feasibility of electronically collecting PROs and to objectively document symptom acuity and trajectory during RT.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: H&N patients undergoing radical RT at our multicentre institution completed a 12-item partial survey of the Vanderbilt Head & Neck Symptom Survey 2.0 prior to RT and weekly on RT. Between October 2016 and October 2018, 318 of 333 patients completed a baseline survey and at least one weekly survey.

RESULTS: The average number of weekly questionnaires completed was 5 (range 1-8). The mean maximum symptom scores were highest for dysgeusia (5.8/10), pain (5.4/10), mucositis (4.8/10), weight loss due to swallowing (4.5/10) and mucus causing choking/gagging (4.3/10). On multivariate analysis, female gender, sinonasal, nasopharynx and oropharynx primaries were associated with a greater risk of moderate-severe pain (p < 0.05). Sinonasal, nasopharynx, oral cavity, oropharynx and thyroid primaries were associated with a greater risk of moderate-severe mucositis during radiation (p < 0.0001). Salivary gland, sinonasal, nasopharynx and oropharynx primaries and higher radiation dose were associated with a greater risk of moderate-severe dysgeusia (all p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Electronic PRO collection during H&N cancer RT is feasible. H&N cancer patients experience significant symptoms during RT, and the most severe symptoms reported were dysgeusia, pain and mucositis. Oropharynx cancer patients reported the highest symptom scores during RT.