Writing in The Journal of Pain, researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center report that pre-treatment pain intensity is an independent survival predictor for patients with head and neck cancer. Pain is a frequent early sign of head and neck cancer, as a result of destructive lesions and direct tissue and bone involvement. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide, with 54,000 cases diagnosed in the US each year.
The study assessed over 2,000 patients who were newly diagnosed with head and neck cancers. Among those with oral cancer, overall five-year survival was 31 percent for patients who reported severe pain and 52 percent for those without severe pain. The survival differentiation was similar in patients with pharyngeal cancer. The authors noted that patients who present with severe pain at diagnosis should be closely monitored and promptly treated for pain symptoms. Read a news story about the findings here.