Managing older patients with head and neck cancer: The non-surgical curative approach

Muhammad Shahid Iqbal, Divyanshu Dua, Charles Kelly, Paolo Bossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managing older patients with head and neck cancers poses a challenge due to the often reduced levels of physiological reserve, the frequent comorbidities and treatment related toxicity. These factors have implications on speech, breathing and swallowing functions. Treatment management plans in these patients may result in de-intensification strategies and as a result of this, use of non-standard treatments is increasing. There have been published reports that indicate the addition of concurrent systemic therapy to radiation in selected older patients is feasible, and produces outcomes comparable with younger patients. However, some other studies including meta-analyses suggest a lack of real survival benefit with the addition of chemotherapy. So, the key point appears to be the optimal patient selection. Appropriate geriatric and frailty assessments are required to help determine the optimal treatment for older patients with head and neck cancer. Treatment for this population still needs to be well defined and optimized in both modality and intensity. Qualitative studies are also required to address short and long-term post-treatment quality-of-life and survivorship issues in this specific patient population. This review summarizes the evidence available regarding the non-surgical management of older patients with head and neck cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-417
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geriatric Oncology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


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