Importance An enduring challenge in the care of patients with head and neck cancer is identifying disease earlier. Appropriately designed screening campaigns are one proposed strategy.
Objective To determine whether a hospital-based or a community-based head and neck cancer (HNC) screening strategy is more effective in identifying high-risk individuals, signs and symptoms, and findings consistent with head and neck neoplasia.
Design, Setting, and Participants In this retrospective cohort analysis, data from HNC screening efforts held at a tertiary care medical center and at a local motorsports event were compared. Participants completed a questionnaire, and a focused physical examination was performed.
Main Outcomes and Measures Identification rates of high-risk individuals, signs and symptoms, and findings consistent with head and neck neoplasia.
Results The hospital-based and community-based efforts yielded 210 and 1380 individuals screened, respectively. The community-based screening events attracted a significantly greater proportion of participants with risk factors of HNC including male sex (P < .001), current tobacco use (P < .001), lifetime history of tobacco use (P = .03), smokeless tobacco use (P = .003), and current alcohol use (P = .04). The hospital-based screening events, however, attracted a statistically greater proportion of people reporting prior head and neck or otolaryngologic treatment (P < .001), history of cancer outside the head and neck (P < .001), and a greater median number of symptoms (P < .001) and examination findings (P < .001).
Conclusions and Relevance These data suggest that the 2 screening models attract 2 fundamentally different types of participants, and those in both groups may benefit from screening, albeit for different reasons: one has a higher rate of risk factors, and early-stage HNC might be discovered while it is more readily treatable; the other has a higher rate of concerning signs, symptoms, and findings, and screening might be used to diagnose or rule out HNC.