Disadvantaged Subgroups Within the Global Head and Neck Cancer Population: How Can We Optimize Care?

Within the global head and neck cancer population, there are subgroups of patients with poorer cancer outcomes independent from tumor characteristics. In this article, we review three such groups. The first group comprises patients with nasopharyngeal cancer in low- and middle-income countries where access to high-volume, well-resourced radiotherapy centers is limited. We discuss a recent study that is aiming to improve outcomes through the instigation of a comprehensive radiotherapy quality assurance program. The second group comprises patients with low socioeconomic status in a high-income country who experience substantial financial toxicity, defined as financial hardship for patients due to health care costs. We review causes and consequences of financial toxicity and discuss how it can be mitigated. The third group comprises older patients who may poorly tolerate and not benefit from intensive standard-of-care treatment. We discuss the role of geriatric assessment, particularly in relation to the use of chemotherapy. Through better recognition and understanding of disadvantaged groups within the global head and neck cancer population, we will be better placed to instigate the necessary changes to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients with head and neck cancer.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Patterns of Care and Outcome of Head and Neck Cancer: Real-World Experience From a Tertiary Care Cancer Center in India

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented health, social, and economic unrest globally, particularly affecting resource-limited low-middle–income countries. The resultant curfew had made the access to and delivery of cancer care services an arduous task. We have reported the patterns of care and 1-year outcome of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) treatment before and during COVID-19 lockdown at our institution.

Patients who underwent radiation therapy (RT) for nonmetastatic HNSCC between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, were included in the COVID-RT group, and those who were treated between October 1, 2019, and February 29, 2020, were included in the preCOVID-RT group.

A total of 25 patients were in the COVID-RT group, and 51 patients were in the preCOVID-RT group. An increase in the incidence of locally advanced cancers across all subsites was observed in the COVID-RT group. There was a steep increase in the median overall RT treatment duration (52 v 44) and median break days during RT (10 v 2) in the COVID-RT group. The median follow-up period of all patients was 18 months. The progression-free survival at 1 year in the COVID-RT group and preCOVID-RT group was 84% and 90%, respectively (P = .08), and overall survival at 1 year was 86% and 96%, respectively (P = .06).

Our study elucidates the adverse impact of the COVID-19 curfew on cancer care and has demonstrated safe delivery of RT for HNSCC without major acute adverse effects. Despite a significant increase in treatment breaks, early outcome data also suggest that 1-year progression-free survival and overall survival are comparable with that of the pre–COVID-19 times; however, longer follow-up is warranted.

Cochlear implantation in South Africa (part 2)

Cochlear implantation is a timeous and cost-effective solution for severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and has transformed the lives of many individuals with significant hearing loss. The advent of cochlear implantation has meant that, for the first time, one of the senses (hearing), having been entirely lost, can be restored. The previous article in this series sketched the problem of severe-toprofound SNHL, and how cochlear implantation can overcome this, how a cochlear implant (CI) works, the history of cochlear implantation and the principles of the multidisciplinary CI team. The current status of cochlear implantation in South Africa (SA) is the subject of discussion in this article, the second of this two-part series on cochlear implantation. It comprises a study of the best available current data on the status of CI in SA.

Cochlear implantation in South Africa (part 1)

Cochlear implantation is a timeous and cost-effective solution for severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss, and has transformed the lives of many individuals with significant hearing loss. The advent of cochlear implantation has meant that, for the first time, one of the senses (hearing), having been entirely lost, can be restored. This, the first of a two-part series on cochlear implantation in South Africa (SA) puts global (and especially SA) hearing loss in perspective, sets out the principles of cochlear implantation and briefly sketches the history of this world-changing technology.

The management of head and neck cancer in Africa. What lessons can be learned from African literature?

There is a significant dearth of contextually relevant information related to the management of head and neck cancer (HNC) in Africa. The aim of this letter was to put forward the findings from our larger systematic review to describe the current management of HNC patients in Africa and to identify gaps and present potential solutions. Sixty-six articles were included and analysed with descriptive statistics, a narrative synthesis, and thematic analysis. Surgical resection remains the primary medical intervention in Africa, whilst chemotherapy and radiation services remain limited. There was no mention of multidisciplinary team input in the management of these patients, including no description of any rehabilitative treatments. There are significant resource shortages ranging from access to medical equipment to both skilled medical and rehabilitative staff. The findings from this study imply that the management of HNC in Africa requires a possible transdisciplinary approach to improve access to services. Health professionals also need to explore a community-based level approach to care to improve access. There needs to be more context-specific research to improve contextually relevant teaching and practice in HNC.

Hearing screening program for school going children in India: necessity, justification, and suggested approaches

It is estimated that about 15% of students have transient hearing loss worldwide sufficient enough to interfere with communication, psychosocial relationship, and learning resulting in poor educational achievement and poverty. However, these conditions are reversible through timely detection and effective interventions. India is home to the largest number of school age children with hearing impairment, and majority of them remain undetected and untreated due to the absence of any dedicated hearing screening program. Therefore, this paper attempts to convince all stakeholders for planning and implementing early detection and intervention program for children with hearing impairment in school settings.

Recent literature estimates that children between the ages 0 and 14 years contribute 25.9% of the total Indian population. As per the global estimates of the prevalence of hearing impairment, India houses the largest number of school age children with hearing impairment. Many of them either remain out of school or perform poorly in school curriculum.

The children in educational programs are readily and easily available for applying hearing screening procedures to detect hearing impairment and instituting audiological and educational remedial measures. But unfortunately, India has not yet envisaged any dedicated early detection and intervention program for school-going children consequently majority of children with hearing impairment undetected and untreated in the classroom.

Hearing impairment is a serious health concern among school age children which can adversely impact on communication, educational achievement, and vocational options. However, screening approaches for early identification in school age children across the world which are simple, effective, and cost-efficient can be considered for countries like India to reverse the ill effects of hearing impairment.

Potential implication
The paper may heighten the awareness among school personnel, educational administrators, and policymakers to consider planning and implementation of early detection and intervention program for children with hearing impairment in school settings.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to transform hearing healthcare and research

The advances in artificial intelligence that are transforming many fields have yet to make an impact in hearing. Hearing healthcare continues to rely on a labour-intensive service model that fails to provide access to the majority of those in need, while hearing research suffers from a lack of computational tools with the capacity to match the complexities of auditory processing. This Perspective is a call for the artificial intelligence and hearing communities to come together to bring about a technological revolution in hearing. We describe opportunities for rapid clinical impact through the application of existing technologies and propose directions for the development of new technologies to create true artificial auditory systems. There is an urgent need to push hearing towards a future in which artificial intelligence provides critical support for the testing of hypotheses, the development of therapies and the effective delivery of care worldwide.

Maternal knowledge and attitudes to childhood hearing loss and hearing services in the Pacific Islands: A cross-sectional survey protocol for urban and rural/remote Samoa

The successful implementation of ear and hearing health services for children depends on the support and engagement of primary caregivers. The World Health Organization recommends childhood hearing screening programs for all member states to enable early detection and intervention for children with hearing loss. Ear and hearing specialists are limited in the Pacific Islands, a region with one of the highest global rates of ear disease and hearing loss. Given that a significant proportion of childhood hearing loss is preventable through public health measures, collaboration with health promotion activities is recommended to improve primary caregiver knowledge of avoidable ear and hearing disorders among infants and young children. Previous work has examined the knowledge and attitudes of parents in an urban Pacific Island settings, and this study will investigate for differences between urban and rural/remote Pacific Island populations.

Study design
Cross-sectional survey.

Questionnaire administered to mothers attending immunization clinics with their infants in urban (Apia) and rural/remote (Savai’i) Samoa. A 25-item questionnaire was formally translated from the original English into Samoan by an accredited translator in collaboration with an Ear, Nose and Throat registered nurse. It will be administered in a semi-structured interview style by a Health Promotion Officer in Samoan. The participating mothers are required to respond with ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘unsure.’ The questions assess knowledge of biomedical etiology of hearing impairment (9 questions), beliefs regarding non-biomedical etiology of hearing impairment (2 questions), knowledge of otitis media and its risk factors (5 questions), knowledge of hearing loss identification and intervention (4 questions), and attitudes towards hearing services for children (6 questions).

Not applicable. Data to be collected.

We publish these protocols to facilitate similar studies in other Low- and Middle-Income Countries, and especially among our Pacific Island neighbours.

Ethical Dilemmas in Surgical Mission Trips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This case is hypothetical and does not involve real patients or actual entities.

A long-running otolaryngology surgical teaching mission to Haiti was postponed in 2020 due to a combination of Haitian travel restrictions and American-based university travel bans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several months have passed since the postponement of this recurring trip, and the local Haitian ear, nose, and throat (ENT) team has reached out to the international surgical teaching team to express their desire for surgical mission trips to return. The backlog of patients that the local team feels could not be treated without assistance continues to grow.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available in the United States, and most US-based health care practitioners have been vaccinated, including all medical volunteers involved in this trip. University-based travel bans have also been lifted. Few Haitian health care providers have been vaccinated. Local Haitian travel restrictions are no longer being enforced, and it is legally possible to travel to the island. The international team has obtained enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to run a self-sufficient trip, but local PPE resources remain scarce.

Should the international surgical team restart mission work at this time? If so, what criteria need to be met for humanitarian organizations to provide safe and ethical care in the COVID-19 era when global inequality remains regarding vaccine distribution?

Going Global: Interest in Global Health Among US Otolaryngology Residents

Background: To meet the rising interest in surgical global health, some surgical residency programs offer global health experiences. The level of interest in these programs, however, and their role in residency recruitment and career planning has not been systematically evaluated.

Objective: (1) Define interest in global health among Otolaryngology residents in the USA. (2) Assess engagement of Otolaryngology residencies in global health training. (3) Determine barriers to global health training in residency.

Methods: A survey questionnaire was developed and sent to all Otolaryngology Residency Program Directors for distribution to all current Otolaryngology residents in the US.

Results: A total of 91 complete surveys were collected. A majority of respondents felt that global health was either “very important” or “extremely important” (67%). Two-thirds of respondents had prior global health experience (68%). While 56% of respondents would definitely participate in a global health elective and 78% would likely or definitely participate, only 37% of residency programs offered a global health experience. The availability of a global health elective significantly correlated with residency match choice in respondents with previous global health experience. The three most common barriers to participation were insufficient time, insufficient funding, and lack of program.

Conclusion: Participation in bilateral and equitable international electives is a unique experience of personal and professional growth. There is an interest in these opportunities during residency training among Otolaryngology residents that is not reflected in availability within training programs. This suggests the need for development of humanitarian outreach exposure through global health experiences during surgical residency training.