Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Adolescents and Young Adults: Survivorship Patterns and Disparities

Sai D Challapalli, Matthew C Simpson, Eric Adjei Boakye, Jay S Pannu, Dary J Costa, Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters
Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology 2018, 7 (4): 472-479

PURPOSE: Adolescent and young adult (AYA) head and neck cancer (HNC) patients require longer term follow-ups as they age; yet, little is known about factors associated with survivorship in this population. We aimed to describe nonclinical factors associated with HNC survivorship among AYAs.

METHODS: In this retrospective cohort study, the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results 18 database from 2007 to 2014 was queried. Eligible cases were 15-39-year-old primary HNC patients with known cause of death (n = 1777). Kaplan-Meier survival curves stratified by age group (15-29, 30-34, and 35-39) and by health insurance status tested differences in HNC survival among groups with a log-rank test. Variables, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, county-level poverty, anatomic site, stage, and treatment, were controlled for in a competing risk proportional hazards model.

RESULTS: Patients were mostly male (64%), with mean age of 33.4 years. Survival rate was 73% after 8 years of follow-up. There were no significant survival differences based on age at diagnosis. However, AYAs who were on Medicaid (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = 1.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.22-2.12) or uninsured (aHR = 1.51, 95% CI 1.03-2.21), had an increased hazard of death from HNC, compared with those with private insurance.

CONCLUSION: Health insurance status is the main nonclinical factor associated with survival among AYAs with HNC, and individuals with Medicaid do not fare better than the uninsured. With a potential longer term follow-up in this AYA population, there is need to optimize survivorship irrespective of health insurance status.

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