Background: We investigated the alarming trend of curable head and neck cancer (HNC) patients forgoing conventional treatment to pursue alternative medicine (AM). Methods: A prospectively maintained database identified HNC patients with ≥12 weeks from diagnosis to treatment initiation between 2012 and 2017. Reasons for delay were categorized and clinical stages and outcomes of AM patients were assessed through chart review by December 2019. Results: Among 1462 patients with primary HNC, 68 patients (4.7%) were confirmed to delay initiation of potentially curative treatment, and 19 of these patients (28%) delayed treatment to pursue AM. Eleven of 19 AM patients transitioned from curative intent to palliation while exploring AM. Continued treatment rejection was common and outcomes corresponded to patients' degree of treatment adherence. Conclusions: AM caused treatment delay and poor outcomes in potentially curable HNC. Improved knowledge among physicians regarding AM and complementary approaches is urgently needed to improve patient counseling. Level of Evidence: Level 2c outcomes research.
- Cancer och onkologi