Purpose: To evaluate patterns of skull base invasion and its possible impact on tumor (T)-staging in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Materials and methods: 838 consecutive newly diagnosed by biopsy proven and untreated patients with NPC underwent MRI. The skull-base invasion of NPC was classified according to their incidence from proximal sites to more distant sites surrounding the nasopharynx as: high (≥35%), medium (≥5-35%), and low (<5%) groups. A retrospective analysis of data consisting of a 5-year follow-up was carried out. The skull base invasion was related to their tumor (T) staging and prognosis at the 5-year follow-up after treatment with definitive radiation therapy. In addition, a survival health-related quality of life (QOL), overall survival (OS), local relapse-free survival (LRFS) and distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) were also assessed among the three groups.
Results: The total incidence of skull-base invasion was 65.51% (549/838). The differences in T-stage distribution, and the total survival health-related QOL, among the three groups were statistically significant (χ(2)=160.45, p<0.005; χ(2)=38.43, p<0.005, respectively). The differences between any two of the three groups were also significant, except when the medium grade was compared to the low grade. Significant differences were observed with regard to 5-year OS (83.2%, 74.7%, 59.2%, p=0.000) and DMFS (95.0%, 88.0%, 88.0%, p=0.016); no significant difference was observed in LRFS (95.3%, 95.6%, 91.23%, p=0.450).
Conclusions: The results indicate that medium and low group displayed similar findings of skull base invasion, and survival status. We, therefore, propose that patients in these two groups be grouped under T4 in the TNM classification that might have a bearing in implementing optimum treatment.
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