Recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) after chemoradiation is a challenging clinical problem. Salvage surgery (SS) is often extensive and mutilating. Oncological outcomes of SS are relatively well known, but little is published about the course of disease after the first recurrence, especially in patients without salvage possibilities. The aim of this study was to analyze the course of disease in patients with recurrent HNSCC after chemoradiation.
Of the 198 patients with recurrent HNSCC, salvage surgery was attempted in 104 (53%). SS was more frequently given in patients with recurrent laryngeal cancer, isolated regional failure (p < 0.001) and HPV-positive disease (p = 0.09). The 2-year OS of the whole group was 31% and was significantly different by tumor site, type of failure and SS. HPV-positive disease and salvaged recurrences were significantly predictive for better survival. One third of that salvaged patients was still alive without second recurrence. Median survival in patients that received any palliative systemic treatment without surgery, compared to those were no treatment was given, was 6 and 3 months, respectively (p = 0.006).
Main factors influencing the course of disease in recurrent HNSCC are the possibilities for SS and HPV-status. Therefore, SS should always be considered and discussed. In patients without possibilities for SS, overall survival is 3-6 months.
We retrospectively analyzed and descriptively reported the disease course in 198 patients with recurrent HNSCC after chemoradiation in the time period after the first recurrence. We scored any type of event, salvage treatment, systemic treatment and overall survival (OS).