In a review of 98 patients who were operated upon for squamous oral cancer, a high proportion of them (48%) developed recurrence after a minimum follow-up of 2 years. Nodal status significantly affected the nodal recurrence rate and survival. For N0, N1, N3 tumours, the 2-year nodal recurrence-free rates were 79, 83, 18%, and the 2-year survival rates were 58, 59 and 10%. For small tumours with N0 neck, the group with elective neck dissection and the observed group did not have statistically different nodal recurrence-free rate and overall survival. The 2-year nodal recurrence-free rate was 92% versus 77% (P value > 0.3) and the 2-year survival rate was 56% versus 72% (P value > 0.6). In patients with N1 neck, radical neck dissection was reasonably effective in controlling neck metastasis. Radical neck dissection in an attempt to treat fixed neck nodes (N3) was not successful in controlling the neck disease.