Delays in Time to Head and Neck Cancer Treatment: A South Australian Perspective

Lachlan Cook, Charmaine Woods, Tracey Nicholls, Eng H. Ooi

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Background and Objectives: In head and neck cancer, delays in time to treatment are associated with poorer clinical outcomes. Within Australia, it is recommended that primary treatment is initiated within 56 days of initial referral. The aim of this study was to assess whether head and neck cancer treatment was delivered within these timeframe guidelines at our institution and identify factors associated with treatment delays. Methods: This retrospective cohort study assessed patients newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer over a 24 months period (2018 to 2019) at Flinders Medical Centre, Australia. Time to treatment intervals were calculated for comparison to local timeframe guidelines. Results: A total of 72 patients met the inclusion criteria. The median time from specialist referral to treatment initiation was 45.5 days (IQR 29–61), with 72% meeting the 56 days guideline. On univariate logistic regression, patients undergoing primary radiotherapy treatment were less likely to meet this guideline than those undergoing primary surgery (OR 8.8, 95% CI 2.6–28.9, p < 0.001), as were those requiring prophylactic gastrostomy tube insertion (OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.1–9.0, p < 0.05). Treatment initiation beyond 56 days had no significant impact on 12 months overall survival or disease-free survival. Conclusions: The findings of this study demonstrate that primary radiotherapy treatment is associated with delays in head and neck cancer treatment initiation, likely related to time consuming pre-treatment factors such as gastrostomy tube insertion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145
Number of pages11
JournalMedicina (Lithuania)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Head and neck neoplasms
  • Time to treatment


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