Trends in chronic opioid therapy among survivors of head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Head Neck. 2020 Sep 22. doi: 10.1002/hed.26478. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Survivors of head and neck cancer (HNC) have increased risk of opioid misuse.

METHODS: Using Surveillance, Epidemiology and End-Results-Medicare data, we matched adults ≥66 years diagnosed with HNC 2008-2015 with cancer-free controls. We computed odds ratios (OR) for receipt of chronic opioid therapy (COT, claims for ≥90 consecutive days) for HNC survivors compared to controls each year after matching through 2016.

RESULTS: The cohort of HNC survivors declined from 5107 in the first year after diagnosis to 604 in the sixth year after diagnosis. For 5 years, rates of COT among HNC survivors exceeded that of controls. Differences between survivors and controls declined each year (ORs: year 1, 4.36; year 2, 2.60; year 3, 2.18; year 4, 1.85; and year 5, 1.35; all P-values <.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Among older HNC survivors, cancer-associated opioid use in the first years after diagnosis suggests that the benefit of opioids must balance the risk of opioid misuse.