Are Oral Pain and Otalgia Predictive of Perineural Invasion in Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oral Tongue?

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2020 Aug;78(8):1418-1426. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2020.03.029. Epub 2020 Apr 6.


Purpose: Tongue cancer is often associated with pain and perineural invasion. The purpose of the present study was to determine the association between tongue pain and otalgia and the microscopic identification of perineural invasion (PNI) in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue (SCCOT).

Patients and methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed of patients with a diagnosis of SCCOT from January 2013 through June 2019. Patients without a history of head and neck cancer, who had SCCOT diagnosed and treated surgically by a single surgeon, were included in the present study. The primary predictor variables were tongue pain and otalgia (presence vs absence of both). Other variables included patient demographic data and TNM stage. The primary outcome variable was the histologic presence of PNI. A χ2 analysis was performed to test for any significant associations between pain, T stage, and overall stage in relation to PNI outcome. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to control for cancer staging variables when testing the association between pain and PNI.

Results: The sample included 128 subjects, of whom 76 were men. Their mean age was 60 years. Most patients (n = 97; 75.8%) complained of tongue pain and a few (n = 50; 39.1%) complained of otalgia. The patients with otalgia had a 3.15 times greater odds of PNI when controlling for T stage (P = .016) and 3.68 times greater odds of PNI when controlling for overall stage (P = .007). Increasing T stage and overall stage-with the exception of stage II-were also significantly associated with PNI (P ≤ .05).

Conclusions: Our study has demonstrated a statistically significant association between preoperative otalgia and PNI in a consecutive group of patients presenting with newly diagnosed SCCOT.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell*
  • Earache*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pain
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies