INTRODUCTION: Life expectancy is rising and consequently also the number of older patients with head and neck cancer. Different treatment regimens are often applied for older patients. The aim of this study is to investigate how treatment patterns and survival rates have changed over the past 20 years in older patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
MATERIALS: Patient and tumour characteristics, treatment and 5-year survival data from the Netherlands Cancer Registry of patients aged ≥60 years diagnosed with HNSCC in 1990-1995 and 2010-2015 were compared using chi-square test and relative survival analysis.
RESULTS: Data of 14,114 patients were analyzed. Oral cavity cancer treatment did not change over time, while survival improved from 54% to 58% (p = 0.03). Oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer treatment shifted towards non-surgical, with survival improving from 31% to 51% (p < 0.01) and 26% to 34% (p < 0.01), respectively. Laryngeal cancer treatment changed towards surgery in stage I and non-surgical treatment in stage III and IV disease. Survival in laryngeal cancer stage I remained stable and favorable at a relative survival rate of around 90%. Survival non-significantly changed from 54% to 49% for stage III disease and from 37% to 33% for disease.
CONCLUSION: Relative survival increased for all head and neck cancer sites in older patients, except for laryngeal cancer. For oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and advanced laryngeal cancer, a shift towards non-surgical treatment modalities was observed.