The Net Around Head and Neck Cancers

Head and neck cancer surgical care good in safety net hospitals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Cancer that occurs in linings of the mouth, throat and nose are called head and neck cancers. The incidence of these cancers is on the rise. People who smoke and drink are at high risk.

Safety net hospitals are usually the places folks without adequate health insurance go to have head and neck cancers treated.

These hospitals have good results treating patients with these cancers.

"Trouble swallowing? See your doctor."

These are the findings of a recent study led by Dane J. Genther, MD and Christine G. Gourin, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University. They reviewed the records of 123,662 patients who had surgery for head and neck cancer between 2001 and 2008.

Head and neck cancers can show up in any of several places – the mouth or oral cavity (lips, tongue, gums, cheeks); the pharynx, which is the area that connects the nose and throat; the larynx or voice box; nasal cavity and sinuses; and the salivary glands, where saliva is made.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 52,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2012. Safety net hospitals care for patients who either have no insurance or are covered with Medicaid.

In this study, the authors found that people who had surgery to treat a head and neck cancer usually stayed longer in the hospital. However, this care did not cost more than in for-profit settings, and complications were not worse.

"These data suggest that safety net hospitals provide valuable specialty care to a vulnerable population without an increase in complications or costs," the authors conclude. 

They continued, “This finding is of particular importance, given the increased incidence of head and neck cancer and comorbidity [other conditions] among disadvantaged populations.

This study was published in the November issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, a JAMA Network publication. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 10, 2012
Last Updated:
February 15, 2013