PURPOSE: The emerge of improved personalized treatment adaptations and outcome prediction is accompanied with increasing non-invasive assessments in early treatment phase, leading to increased patient burden. This study assessed the adherence of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) to undergo pretreatment and research-related intratreatment imaging, and assessed which factors caused drop-out.
METHOD: Between 2013 and 2019, advanced-staged HNSCC patients were prospectively included, underwent (chemo) radiotherapy with curative intent and planned for both pre-treatment and intratreatment sequential 18F-FDG-PET/CT, 18F-FDG-PET/MRI and thereafter MRI (including DWI/DCE). Drop-out-factors were described as healthcare-related (logistics and imaging-system defects) and patient-related (psychological, physical, not-specified). Common Toxicity Criteria (CTC) were routinely scored by radiation/medical oncologists throughout the first 3 weeks, and compared between patient drop-outs and who complete imaging.
RESULTS: Ninety-seven patients (mean age 61 ± 6.8 years) were included; 95 patients (97.9%) underwent pretreatment imaging and 63 (64.9%) intratreatment imaging. For 18F-FDG-PET/CT, 18F-FDG-PET/MRI and MRI pretreatment drop-outs were 2, 10 and 3 patients and for intratreatment drop-outs were 34, 39 and 35 patients, respectively. Patient-related drop-out-factors were physical (n = 16, e.g. dysphagia), psychological (n = 6, e.g. claustrophobia) and non-specified (n = 12). Healthcare-related drop-out-factors were logistics (n = 6) and 18F-FDG-PET/CT-/MRI-system defects (n = 2). The CTC mucosal toxicity was significantly higher (p = 0.023) at week 2 of (chemo)radiotherapy in patient drop-outs than with complete imaging.
CONCLUSIONS: The drop-out frequency of advanced-staged HNSCC patients for imaging during (chemo)radiotherapy in a research-setting was high and mainly patient-related. Treatment of patient-related inconveniences, communication of rationale and healthcare-related imaging protocol efficiency improvements may contribute to improved adherence.