Role of sarcopenia on survival and treatment-related toxicity in head and neck cancer: a narrative review of current evidence and future perspectives


European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, vol.280, no.8, pp.3541-3556, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 280 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00405-023-08014-9
  • Journal Name: European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.3541-3556
  • Keywords: Sarcopenia, Malnutrition, Head and neck cancer, Treatment-related toxicity, Myosteatosis
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to provide an up-to-date summary of sarcopenia and its clinical implications for patients with head and neck cancer (HNC). Methods: We conducted a literature review of recent studies investigating the prevalence of sarcopenia in HNC patients, its detection using MRI or CT scans, and its association with clinical outcomes such as disease-free and overall survival time, radiotherapy-related side effects, cisplatin toxicity, and surgical complications. Results: Sarcopenia, characterized by low skeletal muscle mass (SMM), is a prevalent condition in HNC patients and can be effectively detected using routine MRI or CT scans. Low SMM in HNC patients is associated with increased risks of shorter disease-free and overall survival times, as well as radiotherapy-related side effects such as mucositis, dysphagia, and xerostomia. In addition, cisplatin toxicity is more severe in HNC patients with low SMM, leading to higher dose-limiting toxicity and treatment interruptions. Low SMM may also predict higher risks of surgical complications in head and neck surgery. Identifying sarcopenic patients can aid physicians in better riskstratifying HNC patients for therapeutic or nutritional interventions to improve clinical outcomes. Conclusions: Sarcopenia is a significant concern for HNC patients and can impact their clinical outcomes. Routine MRI or CT scans can effectively detect low SMM in HNC patients. Identifying sarcopenic patients can aid physicians in better risk-stratifying HNC patients for therapeutic or nutritional interventions to improve clinical outcomes. Further research is needed to explore the potential of interventions to mitigate the negative effects of sarcopenia in HNC patients.