Purpose of review: The current review presents a brief overview of the recent literature on the costs of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN), one of the most common forms of cancer. SCCHN is a relatively deadly disease. Approximately 50% of patients survive to 5 years, and surgery and chemoradiotherapy can leave survivors with pain, disfigurement, and disability that further add to the burden of the disease.
Recent findings: Earlier diagnosis of SCCHN increases the likelihood of treating with a single modality, lowers the risk of mortality, decreases medical expenditures, and improves patients' quality of life. Unfortunately, more than one-half of new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Patients with SCCHN have been shown to use significantly more healthcare resources than similar patients without SCCHN, with resource use varying by cancer stage.
Summary: Although there have been a number of treatment innovations for SCCHN in the past 5 years, the lack of economic data complicates the task of evaluating these new interventions. In this time of mounting concerns over healthcare costs, more emphasis on economic data is clearly warranted.