PURPOSE: A randomized trial was initiated to investigate whether a reduction of the dose to the elective nodal sites would result in less toxicity and improvement in Quality of Life (QoL) without compromising tumor control. This paper aimed to compare QoL in both treatment arms.
METHODS: Two-hundred head and neck cancer patients treated with radiotherapy (RT) or chemo-RT were randomized (all stages, mean age: 60 years, M/F: 82%/18%). The elective nodal volumes of patients randomized in the experimental arm were treated up to a 40 Gy equivalent dose. In the standard arm, the elective nodal volumes were treated up to a 50 Gy equivalent dose. The QoL data were collected using The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) core questionnaire QLQ-C30 and the EORTC Head and Neck Cancer module (H&N35).
RESULTS: A trend toward less decline in QoL during treatment was observed in the 40 Gy arm compared to the 50 Gy arm. Statistically significant differences for global health status, physical functioning, emotional functioning, speech problems, and trouble with social eating in favor of the 40 Gy arm were observed. A clinically relevant better outcome in the 40 Gy arm was found for physical functioning at the end of therapy.
CONCLUSION: QoL during RT for head and neck cancer tends to be less impaired in the 40 Gy arm. However, reducing the dose only on the elective neck does not result in clinically relevant improvement of QoL. Therefore, additional treatment strategies must be examined to further improve the QoL of HNSCC patients.