Objective: To reveal the incidence and predictive parameters of occult cervical lymph node metastasis (LNM) in patients with cN0 laryngeal squamous cell cancer (LSCC) who underwent surgery as definitive treatment.
Methods: Patients with cN0 laryngeal cancer who had undergone elective neck dissection together with partial or total laryngectomy between January 2006 and November 2020 were retrospectively analyzed. Clinical and histopathologic predictors of occult metastasis were also analyzed. Follow-up data were used to obtain recurrence and survival analysis.
Results: A total of 86 patients with a mean age of 62.5 years were included in the study. Occult LNM was detected in 15 (17.4%) patients. Tumor grade, pT stage, thyroid cartilage invasion, and extralaryngeal extension were found to predict occult neck metastasis in univariate analysis. The mean follow-up time was 60.7 months and in the survival/recurrence analysis, pT stage, tumor location, tumor grade, presence of occult metastasis, pre-epiglottic space involvement. and extralaryngeal extension were found to predict poorer outcome.
Conclusion: Overall occult LNM is low (17.4%) in N0 laryngeal cancer, but the presence of LNM is a poor prognostic factor. Correct determination of the neck status and proper treatment is crucial. The incidence of LNM is very low in T1-T2 stages and well-differentiated tumors. The "wait and see" strategy may be applied in T1-T2 cases as well as selected T3 cases with well-differentiated tumors.
Keywords: Squamous cell carcinoma; larynx; lymph node; neck dissection; occult lymph node metastasis.