The use of intensive radiological assessments in routine surveillance after treatment for head and neck cancer: An economic evaluation

Michela Meregaglia, John Cairns, Lisa Licitra, Paolo Bossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: There is uncertainty around the optimal surveillance of head and neck cancer patients after the primary curative treatment. This study aims at assessing the cost-effectiveness of a post-treatment programme of frequent radiological assessments (maximal approach) compared with a symptom-driven surveillance (minimal approach).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A decision-analytic Markov model is developed to assess the cost utility of two alternative follow-up programmes with a lifetime horizon. The two interventions differ in the number of radiological assessments (i.e. magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and positron-emission tomography) performed over a 5-year period. Clinical and utility parameters are derived from published and unpublished literature and expert opinion. The cost analysis is conducted from the perspective of a major Italian region's health care system. Cost-effectiveness results are expressed as incremental cost per life year gained (LYG) and per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) and checked against a cost-effectiveness threshold of €25,000-40,000 per QALY. One-way, two-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses are carried out.

RESULTS: In the base-case analysis, an intensive programme of radiological investigations leads to 0.10 additional QALYs (0.15 LYG) and an increase in costs of €1903 per patient compared with those of a minimal option, resulting in an incremental cost of €19,951/QALY gained (€13,123/LYG). In probabilistic sensitivity analysis, 72% of the results lie below the €40,000 threshold (55% below €25,000).

CONCLUSIONS: An intensive post-treatment follow-up with scheduled radiological assessments over time might be cost-effective compared with symptom-driven surveillance in head and neck cancer patients. Further research is needed to check these results in empirical studies or real-world settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018



  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/diagnostic imaging
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diagnostic Imaging/methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms/diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prognosis
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical/economics

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