Facing head and neck cancer deaths head on: Lessons for survival


  • Jolie Ringash MD

    Corresponding author
    1. The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and The University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
    • Corresponding author: Jolie Ringash, MD, Princess Margaret Hospital, Department of Radiation Oncology, 5th Floor, 610 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2M9, Canada; Fax: (416) 946-6561; jolie.ringash@rmp.uhn.on.ca

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  • See referenced original article on pages 1507–13, this issue.


Despite making up only 3% of all cancers, squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (HNC) exemplify complex survivorship care. Characteristics of this cohort of patients include high levels of comorbidity, high baseline risk of psychosocial distress, and exposure to highly toxic treatment strategies. With survival rates of the primary cancer increasing over time, the population at risk for secondary complications (including recurrence, secondary primaries, illnesses induced by risk factors, and injuries related to treatment) is increasing. Recognition of elevated death rates of survivors, persisting up to 10 years after diagnosis, outline the importance of a dedicated approach to HNC survivorship care, whether provided within or outside the comprehensive cancer center.