Factors predicting for patient refusal of head and neck cancer therapy

Arya Amini, Vivek Verma, Richard Li, Nayana Vora, Robert Kang, Thomas J. Gernon, Sue Chang, Sana Karam, Erminia Massarelli, Ellie G. Maghami, Scott Glaser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the national rate of treatment refusal in head and neck cancer (HNC). Methods: The National Cancer Database was queried for nonmetastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Oncologic therapy referred to receipt of surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. Results: Compared to the 230 424 patients who received treatment, 2965 (1.3%) were reported to have refused definitive therapy. Predictors included older age, female sex, African-American/other race, nonprivate insurance, greater comorbidities, more advanced disease, and residence closer to the treating facility (P <.05). Patients with a prior history of cancer, Hispanic race, those treated at academic centers, and those from higher income counties were less likely to refuse therapy (P <.05). Patients who refused definitive therapy experienced poorer survival (median 79.1 vs 8.7 months, P <.001). Conclusions: Refusing oncologic therapy is relatively rare in HNC and appears to be multifocal in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • definitive treatment
  • head and neck cancer
  • radiation
  • radiotherapy
  • socioeconomic factors
  • surgery
  • treatment refusal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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