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Invited Commentary
September 12, 2019

Delivering Timely Head and Neck Cancer Care to an Underserved Urban Population—Better Late Than Never, but Never Late Is Better

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
  • 2Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
  • 3Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(11):1010-1011. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.2432

Despite aggressive multimodal therapy consisting of combinations of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, patients with locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have a poor prognosis, with 5-year survival rates hovering around 50%. This suboptimal survival is even worse for racial/ethnic minorities and underinsured patients with HNSCC, who experience significantly higher rates of mortality relative to their white and well-insured peers.1,2 Therefore, HNSCC is a cancer for which strategies to improve survival and equity are desperately needed. In light of this need, it is becoming abundantly clear that the manner in which we deliver cancer care to patients with HNSCC has significant potential as a modifiable target to drive improvements in survival and decrease disparities in outcomes.3 Delays in cancer care delivery across the continuum contribute to excess mortality for patients with HNSCC, disproportionately burden racial/ethnic minorities and underinsured patients, and are a key contributor to disparities in survival for racial/ethnic minority and underinsured populations.3-5

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