Retropharyngeal lymph node (RPLN) metastasis of primary head and neck cancer often receives less consideration than lymph node metastasis in the neck. With improvements in imaging techniques and reports of surgical pathology, there is an improved understanding of the risk and subsequently the need for treatment of RPLNs. The rates of RPLN metastasis from carcinomas of the nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx, postcricoid region, maxillary sinus, and cervical esophagus are sufficiently high to warrant routine treatment, either electively or therapeutically, of this region. Through improved diagnostic techniques and heightened awareness of RPLN metastasis, patients at risk of having these metastases can be treated more effectively.
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