2-Year Prevalence of Dysphagia and Related Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors: An Updated SEER-Medicare Analysis


      Using a national database, we aimed to examine prevalence of dysphagia at the population level in head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors.


      Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare data were retrospectively analyzed among 16,194 eligible HNC patients treated between 2002 and 2011. Claims were used to estimate prevalence of 3 swallowing related endpoints within 2 years of treatment: dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia and derive treatment- and site-specific estimates. Multiple logistic regression was conducted with stepwise backward selection.


      Dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia were prevalent, occurring among 45.3% (95% CI: 44.5-46.1), 10.2% (95% CI: 9.7-10.7), 8.7% (95% CI: 8.2-9.1) of all patients, respectively. Prevalence of aspiration pneumonia and stricture remained stable over the decade, but dysphagia increased by 11.7%. Prevalence of all swallowing-related endpoints was highest among those treated with chemoradiation. Relative to single modality surgery, single modality radiation was associated with 2.1 (95% CI: 1.8-2.4), 1.3 (95% CI: 0.97-1.6), and 1.4 (95% CI: 1.1-1.8) greater odds of dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia respectively. Relative to single modality RT, multi-modality surgery+RT or CRT were associated with 1.5 (95% CI: 1.3-1.7), 1.7 (95% CI: 1.4-2.1), and 1.2 (95% CI: 0.95-1.5) or 2.9 (95% CI: 2.5-3.3), 2.3 (95% CI: 1.9-2.8), 1.6 (95% CI: 1.3-2.0) greater odds of dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia respectively. Relative to multi-modality surgery+RT, CRT was associated with 1.9 (95% CI: 1.7-2.2), 1.3 (95% CI: 1.1-1.5), and 1.3 (95% CI: 1.1-1.6) greater odds of dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia respectively.


      Prevalence of dysphagia, stricture, and aspiration pneumonia were similar in the decade studied (2002 to 2011) when comparing to published rates using similar methodology in an earlier decade (1992-1999) suggesting persistence of this morbidity in the decade in which IMRT was popularized. Dysphagia related endpoints were most prevalent among those treated with combined modality chemotherapy with radiation.


      Commenting Guidelines

      To submit a comment for a journal article, please use the space above and note the following:

      • We will review submitted comments as soon as possible, striving for within two business days.
      • This forum is intended for constructive dialogue. Comments that are commercial or promotional in nature, pertain to specific medical cases, are not relevant to the article for which they have been submitted, or are otherwise inappropriate will not be posted.
      • We require that commenters identify themselves with names and affiliations.
      • Comments must be in compliance with our Terms & Conditions.
      • Comments are not peer-reviewed.