Primary radiotherapy (RT) and transoral surgery (TOS) are effective local therapy treatments for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), but their cost profiles differ. We compared the one-year costs of these competing treatments using a large claims-based database.
Eligible individuals were patients in the SEER-Medicare registry diagnosed with OPSCC between 2000 and 2011. Patients were categorized as receiving either primary RT +/- chemotherapy, or TOS +/- adjuvant RT or chemoradiotherapy (CRT), and all treatment costs from 1 month prior to diagnosis to 1 year after diagnosis were calculated. Univariable and multivariable linear regression models were used to determine predictors of payer expenditure. Patient-borne pharmacy costs were also analyzed.
The cohort included 3497 patients (73% RT, 27% TOS), of whom 73% were locally advanced. The mean total 13 month costs for RT alone, CRT, TOS alone, TOS + RT and TOS + CRT were $39,083, $63,537, $25,468, $36,592, and $99,919, respectively, for early-stage patients. For locally advanced individuals, the mean costs were $45,049, $68,099, $40,626, $53,729, and $71,397, respectively. On multivariable analysis, the adjusted increase in total costs versus RT alone were $21,844, -$5431, $7984, and $28,581 for CRT, TOS alone, TOS + RT, and TOS + CRT, respectively. The difference between CRT and TOS + RT became non-significant for TOS patients undergoing transoral surgery plus neck dissection. Cisplatin was associated with significant less cost than cetuximab and taxane-based chemotherapy.
In this population of elderly patients, transoral surgery was generally associated with less expensive treatment, with the addition of chemotherapy serving as the main driver of increased cost.

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