BACKGROUND: Enteral nutritional support is used in care for patients with head and neck cancer. This study describes the frequency and timing of gastrostomy tube placement and corresponding Medicare nutritional support claims in patients with head and neck cancer.
METHODS: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare data for patients with head and neck cancer diagnosed from 2000 to 2005 were used in this descriptive study (N = 16,458).
RESULTS: In all, 35.1% of patients undergoing treatment had gastrostomy tubes placed; 16.9% had tubes placed before treatment, whereas 83.1% had them placed after treatment. Of those having tubes placed prior to treatment 23.7% had Medicare claims for nutritional support before treatment and 40.9% had claims after treatment began. A total of 35.4% of patients who had tubes placed before treatment and 35.5% who had tubes placed after treatment had no claims for nutritional support.
CONCLUSIONS: Future work is warranted to identify predictors and outcomes associated with provision and timing of enteral nutrition support for patients with head and neck cancer.
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