Corresponding author Dr. Eduardo Mendez of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and colleagues used a national database to identify 1,195 patients age 66 and older diagnosed with advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinomas from 2003 to 2007. Treatment and survival were determined using Medicare data.
The study, published online in the journal Cancer, found patients who got therapy at hospitals treating a high volume of head and neck cancers were 15 percent less likely to die compared with those treated at hospitals with a relatively low number of such cancers.
The study also found patients were 12 percent less likely to die of the cancer when treated at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
Mendez and colleagues also hypothesized patients with head and neck cancer treated at high-volume hospitals would be more likely to receive therapy that complies with National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines due to the complexity of managing these cancers.
Surprisingly, the researchers said they found the proportion of patients who received complex therapy was similar -- 78 percent and 79 percent -- at low- and high-volume hospitals, respectively.