Bone metastases from squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

J Surg Oncol. 2000 Oct;75(2):136-41. doi: 10.1002/1096-9098(200010)75:2<136::aid-jso11>;2-d.


Background and objectives: Carcinoma of the head and neck is an uncommon primary source of bone metastases. The increasing duration of survival of these patients, however, increases the probability of late bone involvement. The objective was to identify the frequency, clinical presentation, and clinical course of metastatic disease to bone from head and neck primaries.

Methods: A retrospective review was accomplished of the radiographs and nuclear medicine studies for 363 cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck for whom radiologic studies had been performed. For those with identified bone involvement, a chart review was performed to identify clinical presentation, disease course, and outcome.

Results: Only approximately 1% of these patients had clinically demonstrable bone metastases. Eight sites of bone involvement were identified in five patients, including three pelvic, two femoral, and one each humeral, rib, and thoracic spine lesions. All lesions were purely lytic with moth-eaten or permeative borders. Time from primary tumor diagnosis to identification of metastatic disease ranged from being present at diagnosis to a maximum 3.5 years later. Time from identification of metastatic disease to patient death was no greater than 8 months.

Conclusions: Despite the increasing overall survival of patients with these carcinomas, distant bone metastases are infrequent, but should be considered a possibility in any patient with a concurrent or past diagnosis of head and neck carcinoma. The very short time from discovery of bone dissemination to death in most of these patients should be taken into consideration when contemplating operative intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies