OBJECTIVE: Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are rapidly developing tumours, and substantial delay in treatment initiation is associated with decreased overall survival. The effect of delay on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of delay on QOL and overall survival.
METHODS: Patients with mucosal HNSCC were prospectively included. HRQOL and 2-year overall survival were analysed using linear mixed-model analyses and cox regression, respectively. Delay was defined as care pathway interval (CPI) of ≥30 days between first consultation and treatment initiation.
RESULTS: Median CPI was 39 days for the 173 patients included. A trend towards higher HRQOL-scores (indicating better HRQOL) during 2-year follow-up for patients with delay in treatment initiation was visible in the adjusted models (HRQOL summary score-β: 2.62, 95% CI: 0.57-4.67, p = 0.012). Factors associated with decreased overall survival were moderate comorbidities (HR: 5.10, 95% CI: 1.65-15.76, p = 0.005) and stage-IV tumours (HR: 12.37, 95% CI: 2.81-54.39, p = 0.001). Delay was not associated with worse overall survival.
CONCLUSION: Timely treatment initiation is challenging, especially for patients with advanced tumours and initial radiotherapy treatment. Encountering delay in treatment initiation did not result in clinically relevant differences in HRQOL-scores or decreased overall survival during 2-year follow-up.