Diagnosis and Management of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Unknown Primary in the Head and Neck: ASCO Guideline

J Clin Oncol. 2020 Aug 1;38(22):2570-2596. doi: 10.1200/JCO.20.00275. Epub 2020 Apr 23.


Purpose: To provide evidence-based recommendations to practicing physicians and other health care providers on the diagnosis and management of squamous cell carcinoma of unknown primary in the head and neck (SCCUP).

Methods: The American Society of Clinical Oncology convened an Expert Panel of medical oncology, surgery, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and advocacy experts to conduct a literature search, which included systematic reviews, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, and prospective and retrospective comparative observational studies published from 2008 through 2019. Outcomes of interest included survival, local and regional disease control, and quality of life. Expert Panel members used available evidence and informal consensus to develop evidence-based guideline recommendations.

Results: The literature search identified 100 relevant studies to inform the evidence base for this guideline. Four main clinical questions were addressed, which included subquestions on preoperative evaluations, surgical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, appropriate pathology techniques, and adjuvant therapy.

Recommendations: Evidence-based recommendations were developed to address preoperative evaluation for patients with a neck mass, surgical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, appropriate treatment options in unilateral versus bilateral SCCUP.Additional information is available at www.asco.org/head-neck-cancer-guidelines.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Unknown Primary / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Unknown Primary / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Prognosis
  • Societies, Medical