Paralleled by rising cancer burden, recent global demographic changes have been marked by a constantly growing number of people aged 65 or more. In the United States, presently 54% of malignant head and neck cancer cases occur in the geriatric population, and by 2030, this proportion is expected to attain 66%. Despite the obvious importance of addressing specific needs of elderly patients, these individuals have often been undertreated and refrained from geriatric assessment in clinical practices and underrepresented in prospective trials. Unfortunately, many health care professionals still believe that older patients cannot tolerate intensified treatment regimens. In this paper, we focused on concurrent chemoradiation as definitive or post-operative treatment in locoregionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Although confirmatory data from large randomised phase III trials conducted in the elderly are lacking, available evidence from meta-analyses of prospective trials and retrospective reviews of population-based cross-sectional registries indirectly support this approach, primarily in the definitive treatment setting. However, irrespective of calendar age, distinction between fit and frail senior patients is of paramount priority. In this respect, several geriatric screening tools have been developed for use by practicing physicians to help select which patients need a comprehensive geriatric assessment, who requires a specific examination only (e.g. focused on certain comorbid conditions, cognition, nutritional status, social support, or psychological state), and where no further testing is warranted.
(BELG J MED ONCOL 2018;12(3):110–117)