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Respiratory and pulmonary complications in head and neck cancer patients: An evidence-based review for the COVID-19 era
  • Stephen Y. Kang, MD
Stephen Y. Kang, MD
The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
Author Profile

Abstract

Background: Pulmonary complications and infections frequently affect patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Common characteristics can predispose these patients to the development of severe respiratory illness, which may be particularly relevant during the  2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Methods: A scoping review was performed to assess the impact of pulmonary comorbidities and adverse respiratory outcomes in HNSCC patients. Results: Advanced age, history of tobacco and alcohol abuse, and cardiopulmonary comorbidities are significant risk factors for the development of adverse respiratory outcomes. Treatment  toxicities from radiation or chemoradiation therapy significantly increase these risks.  Conclusion: Respiratory complications are a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality among HNSCC patients, and the COVID-19 pandemic may disproportionately affect this population.  Interventions designed to decrease smoking and alcohol use, improve oral hygiene, and aggressively manage medical comorbidities are important to the long-term management and health of these patients.