Head and neck cancer

A place for people affected by head and neck cancers, including oral, throat , larynx (voice box), salivary glands, middle ear, and sinus and nasopharyngeal cancer. Support one another, ask questions, and share experiences.

Chances of Recurrence

Posted by

Hello all this is my first post here but I have been lurking for a while soaking up as much information as possible!

Little bit of backstory, I was diagnosed with a T4 SCC in April. Chemo-radiation finished in August and I had my post-treatment PET Scan a few weeks ago. This week I went for the results and was immensely relieved to hear there was no sign of the Cancer on the Scan. Great news, but then my ENT Surgeon said that there was a 50/50 chance of a recurrence. That kind of floored me and the risk seems very high. He’s a lovely guy but not the most communicative of sorts and I totally forgot to ask some obvious questions so hoping you folks can help.

First does the 50/50 risk of recurrence increase / decrease or stay the same over time? If it does recur would it be curtains or could they do anything for me?

Many thanks

Posted by

That’s a horrid way to give you news like that. A lot of these highly skilled doctors have a rubbish bedside manner! 
Maybe it might be a good idea to write your questions down and take them to him at your next appointment. He is the only one that can really give you a properly qualified answer. 
After treatment we all live in the magic five year window. The longer we survive the less that chance of recurrence till we get to the five years when the chance of getting the cancer becomes that of anybody else that didn’t have it. Once you’re at 2 years the chances are pretty good. 
There is a further complication in that patients with tumours caused by human papilloma virus have a much better survival prognosis than others. HPV SCC is much more amenable to treatment. 
As for further treatment more surgery and immunotherapy are options . Have a look at Hellebore’s post on pembrolizumab

I hope you get the answer from your oncologist and good luck. 

Posted by

Good evening Slushf, Im afraid its always dangerous when they start giving statistics, my consultant said: " I'm afraid there are no real guarantees at the moment and there is a possibility it could return", although i never had a scan afterwards. As Beesuit said 5 years is the time when they can give a better prediction, with two years being a good sign things are going ok, so the more years that go by the risk of it coming back decreases. If it did return it definitely does not mean its the end , quite the opposite in most cases with the survival rate going up each year due to more understanding of cancer plus the improvements in treatments, surgery and medicines. Please do not take what your ENT consultant as a negative as i think he might have given you the impression that you were all clear so just wants to make you aware it could return. I was told just over a year ago that i was classed as cancer-free and there was not much chance of it coming back,Im now coming up to 11 years since my first operation, so all is good. Its only natural to think that it might return but as time goes by it starts to fade.

         I don't know when your next check-up is but if you are worried about what the ENT has said then please make an appointment to see him earlier. We can only offer advice on here from our own experiences and each one is different so please re-post if you need more help. Best wishes, take care.

                                                                                  Chris x  

Its sometimes not easy but its worth it !                Click here to find out more

Posted by

The things to bear in mind about statistics for these cancers are:

1) Until recent years most H&N cancers were relatively rare, so the statistics are not very good, and also not very specific to different types, locations, stages etc.

2) the statistics are backward-looking, and include cases from decades ago when treatment was not as good and survival chances a lot lower. In 20 years time the statistics will probably look a lot better, partly because survival rates now are improving

So, as others have said, don't give too much thought to them, but do take your health seriously and make sure you report anything you are not happy about.

My OH was given the same statistic also for SCC of the tongue, and same treatment regime -  he is now in 5th year post-treatment with no recurrence.

Posted by

@Beesuit, Chris2012 and Alichapp - many thanks for your very helpful replies. I won't fret but will prepare carefully for my next encounter with my ENT Surgeon or Oncologist in January!

Best regards