Head and neck cancer (HHC) is a collective term for cancers of the lip, oral cavity, oral and nasal cavity, nose and sinuses, larynx, salivary glands and cancer with an unknown primary tumor. It is the 6th most common cancer in the world. In Sweden, approximately 1,600 people are diagnosed annually and 60% of them have advanced cancer at diagnosis. In recent decades, there has been a clear increase in the number of patients with cancer of the tonsils and tongue root caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). The treatment is surgery and radiation therapy and with the addition of medical treatment (cytotoxic drugs). Side effects of the tumor disease and treatment are common.
Patients diagnosed with HHC have been recruited to our study since 2015 via the university hospitals in Uppsala, Umeå and Örebro. To date, 415 patients have been included and we plan to continue the inclusion until December 2022. The patients are followed up for two years and data for each patient is collected on seven occasions. A baseline measurement is made before the treatment begins and the follow-ups take place at 4 and 7 weeks after the start of treatment and 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after the end of treatment. On four occasions, blood samples are taken and body mass is measured. Five-year survival data are obtained from the National Board of Health and Welfare’s cause of death register.
This multicenter study gives us a great opportunity to increase knowledge about the complex interplay between the nutritional state and the immune system in patients treated for HHC. With increased knowledge, it becomes easier to identify patients with an increased risk of recurrence of tumor disease, early tumor-related death and long-term side effects after treatment. We hope that this knowledge will lead to a better follow-up of patients in healthcare. The goal is also for the knowledge to make healthcare better at giving patients support to meet the challenges that are related to physical, mental and social health after treatment.