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This article is the author’s final published version in BMC Cancer, Volume 22, Issue 1, June 2022, Article number: 688.

The published version is available at Copyright © Shaver et al.


Background: While often life-saving, treatment for head and neck cancer (HNC) can be debilitating resulting in unplanned hospitalization. Hospitalizations in cancer patients may disrupt treatment and result in poor outcomes. Pre-treatment muscle quality and quantity ascertained through diagnostic imaging may help identify patients at high risk of poor outcomes early. The primary objective of this study was to determine if pre-treatment musculature was associated with all-cause mortality.

Methods: Patient demographic and clinical characteristics were abstracted from the cancer center electronic database (n = 403). Musculature was ascertained from pre-treatment CT scans. Propensity score matching was utilized to adjust for confounding bias when comparing patients with and without myosteatosis and with and without low muscle mass (LMM). Overall survival (OS) was evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox multivariable analysis.

Results: A majority of patients were male (81.6%), white (89.6%), with stage IV (41.2%) oropharyngeal cancer (51.1%) treated with definitive radiation and chemotherapy (93.3%). Patients with myosteatosis and those with LMM were more likely to die compared to those with normal musculature (5-yr OS HR 1.55; 95% CI 1.03-2.34; HR 1.58; 95% CI 1.04-2.38).

Conclusions: Musculature at the time of diagnosis was associated with overall mortality. Diagnostic imaging could be utilized to aid in assessing candidates for interventions targeted at maintaining and increasing muscle reserves.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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