The study evaluated 1,227 patients scheduled for courses of external-beam radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck, breast, lung, cervix, uterus, or rectum from 2007 to 2012. Of these patients, 226 (22%) were noncompliant (ie, they missed two or more scheduled radiation therapy appointments). All patients eventually completed the radiation therapy course planned for them.
The radiation therapy course for noncompliant patients was prolonged for an average of 1 week compared with compliant patients. Nevertheless, 16% of noncompliant patients later experienced a recurrence of their cancers vs only a 7% recurrence rate for compliant patients.
“This study shows that the health of our patients can improve only when a course of treatment is completed in the prescribed period of time,” said Madhur Garg, MD, Clinical Director, Department of Radiation Oncology at MECCC and Professor of Clinical Radiation Oncology at Albert Einstein. “These findings should serve as a wake-up call to physicians, patients, and their caregivers about the critical need to adhere to a recommended treatment schedule.”
Prolonging radiation therapy for head and neck cancer or cervical cancer impacted tumor control and overall survival at the greatest rate, at 1% per day; however, this negative impact was seen in all cancers studied. This is attributed to tumor repopulation, which can accelerate after treatment initiation.
Past and Future Research
“We previously conducted a study that demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between lower socioeconomic status and noncompliance,” said Nitin Ohri, MD, Attending Physician at MECCC and Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Albert Einstein. “A multivariable Cox proportional hazards model was informed by this prior study and helped us adjust for demographic variables like age, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.”
As an outcome result of this study, management of mood disorders, patient navigator programs, and increasing assistance with transportation are being evaluated at Montefiore as interventions that might improve patient care outcomes and close disparities among vulnerable populations.
The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.