OSA in patients with head and neck cancer is associated with cancer size and oncologic outcome

Head and Neck Cancer

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2020 Sep 29. doi: 10.1007/s00405-020-06355-3. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with severe daytime sleepiness and reduced quality of life. These symptoms are also present in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) before, during and after treatment, so that comorbidity cannot be excluded. The aim was to evaluate the prevalence of OSA and its impact on the quality of life in patients with oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and lateral tongue SCCHN in a prospective study.

METHODS: We performed cardiorespiratory home sleep apnea testing and recorded sleep-related patient-reported outcomes in 33 patients with confirmed oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and lateral tongue SCCHN. We correlated the sleep-related variables to oncologic variables and endpoints.

RESULTS: Five female and 28 male patients with SCCHN (aged 46-77 years) were recruited. Thirty patients (90%) had OSA as defined by an Apnea/Hypopnea Index (AHI) > 5 /h before treatment. Evaluation after treatment, which was possible in 17 patients, showed OSA in 16 patients (94%). Radiologic primary tumor size showed significant positive correlation with AHI and apnea-index. Tumor recurrence and tumor-related mortality showed significant positive association with AHI. PSQI of these patients showed at least a moderate sleep disturbance. EORTC QLQ c30 questionnaire showed reduced values for all tested qualities, in particular for fatigue, insomnia, pain and financial distress.

CONCLUSION: Obstructive sleep apnea is a significant comorbidity in patients with SCCHN. Pre-interventional AHI may be correlated with the oncologic outcome. Further research is needed to further describe the course of OSA and its treatment before, during and after therapy.