Diagnostic Delay in Human Papillomavirus Negative Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Emily E. Karp, Linda X. Yin, Thomas Jamie O'Byrne, Lauren Y. Lu, David M. Routman, Scott C. Lester, Michelle A. Neben Wittich, Daniel J. Ma, Katharine A. Price, Ashish V. Chintakuntlawar, Kendall K. Tasche, Daniel L. Price, Eric J. Moore, Kathryn M. Van Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Failure to recognize symptoms of non-human papillomavirus-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPV(−)OPSCC) at presentation can delay diagnosis and treatment. We aim to identify patient factors and provider practice patterns that delay presentation and care in HPV(−)OPSCC. Methods: Retrospective review at a tertiary care center. Patients with HPV(−)OPSCC receiving treatment from 2006 to 2016. Patients were excluded if their date of symptom onset or diagnosis was unknown after thorough review of the electronic medical record or their tissue was not tested for HPV or p16. Clinical data, workup, and care timelines were abstracted. Univariate and multivariable linear regressions were performed to determine associations between patient and provider factors and delays in care. Results: Of 70 included patients, 52 (74%) were male and mean age was 60.5 (SD = 9.0). Median time to diagnosis was 69 days (IQR = 32–127 days), with a median latency of 30 days (IQR = 12–61 days) from symptom onset to first presentation and 19.5 days (IQR = 4–46 days) from the first presentation to diagnosis. Most patients visited at least 2 providers (n = 52, 74%) before diagnosis. Evaluation by 3 or more providers prior to diagnosis was associated with significant delays in diagnosis of nearly a year (357.7 days, p < 0.001) and being treated or prescribed analgesia prior to diagnosis was significantly associated with delays in diagnosis (p = 0.004) on univariate regression analysis. Conclusions: Delays in care related to evaluations by multiple providers and misdiagnosis prolonged time to diagnosis in HPV(−)OPSCC. Improved patient and provider education is necessary to expedite the diagnosis of HPV(−)OPSCC. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 133:1394–1401, 2023.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1394-1401
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • diagnosis
  • diagnostic delays
  • oropharynx cancer
  • presentation
  • symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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