Head and Neck Cancer Patient Population, Management, and Oncologic Outcomes from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Julie R. Bloom, Carlos Rodriguez-Russo, Kristin Hsieh, Daniel R. Dickstein, Ren Dih Sheu, Mayuri Jain, Erin Moshier, Jerry Liu, Vishal Gupta, Diana N. Kirke, Scott Roof, Krzysztof Misiukiewicz, Marshall Posner, Richard Bakst, Kunal K. Sindhu, Sonam Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated drastic changes in cancer care. Its impact on the U.S. head and neck cancer population has yet to be fully understood. This study aims to understand the impact of pandemic-related changes on the head and neck cancer population. An observational study of head and neck cancer patients at a single institution during the spring of 2020 and 2019 was performed. Clinical characteristics and survival outcomes were analyzed. In 2020, 54 head and neck cancer patients were evaluated in the department of radiation oncology vs. 74 patients seen in 2019; 42% of the patients were female in 2019 versus 24% in 2020 (p = 0.036). The median follow-up time was 19.4 and 31 months for 2020 and 2019, respectively. After adjusting for stage, the relapse-free survival probability at 6 and 12 months was 79% and 69% in 2020 vs. 96% and 89% in 2019, respectively (p = 0.036). There was no significant difference in the overall survival, with 94% and 89% in 2020 and 2019, respectively (p = 0.61). Twenty-one percent of patients received induction chemotherapy in 2020 versus 5% in 2019 (p = 0.011); significantly more treatment incompletions occurred in 2020, 9% vs. 0% in 2019 (p = 0.012). Moreover, the stage-adjusted RFS differed between cohorts, suggesting head and neck cancer patients seen during the initial wave of COVID-19 may experience worse oncologic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-446
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • COVID-19
  • gender disparity
  • head and neck cancer
  • induction chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy


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