Objectives: To evaluate the benefits of chest computed tomography and X-ray as screening tools in patients with newly diagnosed head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, to determine the incidence of lung metastases or synchronous pulmonary lesions, and to evaluate factors associated with positive radiological findings.
Design: Five-year, retrospective survey of all newly diagnosed cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Results: We included 102 patients (63 men and 39 women), with a mean age of 67 years (range 33-91 years). The incidence of pulmonary involvement was 17 per cent. The sensitivity and specificity of computed tomography were 100 and 89.8 per cent, respectively. For chest X-ray, the sensitivity was 35.7 per cent and the specificity 92.7 per cent. The accuracy of computed tomography was 91.5 per cent and that of chest X-ray 83.1 per cent. There was a clear correlation between higher nodal stage and larger tumour with the development of distant metastases. In patients with a positive chest computed tomography scan, 86 per cent had T3 or T4 tumours, in contrast to 38 per cent of those with a negative chest scan (p < 0.05). In addition, 71 per cent of patients with positive findings had N2 or N3 nodal disease, compared with 29 per cent of those with negative findings (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: There is currently no consensus on the use of chest X-ray and computer tomography for screening newly diagnosed cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. We recommend routine scanning of high-staged head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines should be reappraised.