Treatment of head and neck cancer in elderly patients: state of the art and guidelines

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2005 Jan;53(1):71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2004.08.001.


Although the majority of head and neck cancers occur between the fifth and sixth decade, their onset in patients older than 60 years is not a rare event. A peculiar characteristic of almost all case series is the lower prevalence of radical treatments among elderly as compared to younger patients, in particular surgery and combined treatment of surgery plus radiation therapy or chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Radiotherapy is a feasible treatment in elderly patients, also in very advanced age groups and, in the era of organ preservation, chemotherapy combined with RT has a paramount importance. Therapeutical planning must be based not only on tumor characteristics, but also on the physiological, rather than the chronological age the patient. The main clinical problem is, therefore, the selection of patients to be administered anticancer treatment. In patients aged 70 or older, complete geriatric assessment and a multidisciplinary approach are the crucial points.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged