Introduction: In the UK 5000–7000 head and neck cancer cases are diagnosed annually. Only 50 per cent are curable. The remaining terminal cases are managed by palliative care services in the community and in hospices. Our study aimed to identify the outcome of patients once referred onwards from secondary care. We performed a retrospective analysis of patients referred to St Christopher’s Hospice in London.
Method: Over a 3-year period 94 patients were referred to St Christopher’s Hospice and its associate Harris Hospice, from Guy’s, St George’s and the Royal Marsden Hospitals. We collected information regarding the age and gender of patients alongside time of referral, type and location of their cancer, previous treatment, functional problems with activities of daily life, psychosocial difficulties, pain control, place and circumstances of death.
Results: From January 2010 to December 2012, 61 male and 33 female patients were referred to St Christopher’s. At referral their ages ranged from 30 to 102 years. The predominant locations of tumours were base of tongue (15), tonsil (13) and nasopharynx (12). Of these cases, 5 deaths occurred in hospital, 18 at home, 4 in care homes and 45 in a hospice at time of review.
Conclusion: This study identifies outcomes of patients when they leave head and neck cancer services and highlights areas where liaison between palliative care and head and neck services may improve patient care during this stage of their disease.