Objective Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are relatively fast-growing tumours, and delay of treatment is associated with tumour progression and adverse outcomes. The aim of this study is to identify determinants of delay in a head and neck oncology centre.
Methods This cohort study with prospectively collected data investigated associations between patient (including geriatric assessment at first consultation), tumour and treatment characteristics and treatment delay. Two quality indicator intervals assessing value-based healthcare were studied: care pathway interval (CPI, interval between first visit in an HNOC and treatment initiation) and time-to-treatment initiation (TTI, interval between histopathological confirmation of HNSCC and treatment initiation), using regression analyses.
Results Stage-IV tumours and initial radiotherapy were independent predictors of delay in CPI. Initial radiotherapy was associated with delay in TTI. Overall, 37% of the patients started treatment within 30 days after first consultation (67% in case of initial surgical treatment and 11.5% if treated with (chemo)radiation, p <0.001). Geriatric assessment outcomes were not associated with delay. Indicators for delay in initial surgery patients were stage-IV tumours (CPI).
Conclusion The majority of HNSCC patients encounter delay in treatment initiation, specifically in patients with advanced-stage tumours or when radiotherapy is indicated.