Background A significant fraction of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cases is associated with traditional carcinogens; in these patients, treatment response and clinical outcomes remain poor. Methods We evaluated patient, tumor, and treatment characteristics for 200 veterans with oropharyngeal SCC treated at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) between 2000 and 2012. Results Most patients (77%) were white and heavy smokers. Twenty-seven patients required tracheostomy and 63 required gastrostomy placement during treatment. Overall survival (OS) at 5 years was 40%. Survival was impacted by T classification, treatment intensity, completion of treatment, and p16 tumor status. Almost 30% of patients were unable to complete a treatment regimen consistent with National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines. Conclusion Oropharyngeal SCC in veterans is associated with traditional carcinogens and poor clinical outcomes. Despite heavy smoking exposure, p16 tumor status significantly impacts survival. Careful consideration must be given to improving treatment paradigms for this cohort given their limited tolerance for treatment escalation.
- oropharyngeal cancer