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01.08.2011 | Head and Neck | Ausgabe 8/2011

European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology 8/2011

The follow-up of patients with head and neck cancer: an analysis of 1,039 patients

Zeitschrift:
European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology > Ausgabe 8/2011
Autoren:
P. Kothari, A. Trinidade, R. J. D. Hewitt, A. Singh, P. O’Flynn

Abstract

In all cancer specialities, there has been much debate about the best follow-up regime. The provision of a service that meets high standards whilst being cost-effective is increasingly pertinent. The objectives of the study were to examine: whether routine follow-up facilitates early diagnosis and recurrence; whether there is a cohort of patients who require a more intensive follow-up regime; whether follow-up should be customised to individual patients. A total of 1,039 consecutive outpatient consultations were prospectively analysed in a multicentre study. All adult patients who had undergone multidisciplinary, multimodality management for head and neck cancer were included. The case mix was representative of all head and neck tumour sites and stages. Suspicion of recurrence was noted in 10% (n = 96/951) of patients seen routinely. This rose to 68% (n = 60/88) for the subset of patients who had requested an appointment. Most recurrences were found within the first follow-up year (n = 64/156, 54%). Only 0.3% (n = 3/1,039) of asymptomatic patients attending routine appointments were suspected of having a recurrence, and two (0.2%) were found to have an actual recurrence following investigation. Of the total number of patients reporting a new suspicious symptom, recurrence was suspected in 56% (n = 152/270). Patients thus had a 98.1% sensitivity to raising suspicion for a recurrence based on the reporting of new symptoms with a 99.6% negative predictive value. Our data show that the efficiency of the current follow-up regime at detecting suspected recurrence of head and neck cancer is low, suggesting the need for a customised, more focused follow-up regime, tailored to individual cases. Patient education and close relationships with clinicians and allied health-care professionals are essential for early diagnosis and management of cancer recurrence. Follow-up regimes within the first year should be most intensive as recurrence is most likely within this time, and it serves to alleviate patient anxiety in the early post-treatment period. More research needs to be carried out to investigate the role of patient self-reporting and surveillance of cancer recurrence.

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