Recurrence at the primary site in head and neck cancer and the significance of neck lymph node metastases as a prognostic factor

Cancer. 1994 Jan 1;73(1):187-90. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19940101)73:1<187::aid-cncr2820730132>;2-j.


Background: Biologic aggressiveness of head and neck carcinoma is reflected in its capability to metastasize to regional lymph nodes and its propensity to recur after treatment.

Methods: The authors report on 244 patients treated at the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery of the Free University Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with excision of primary tumor with incontinuity neck dissection with or without postoperative radiation therapy between January 1973 and July 1986. All patients had surgical margins free of tumor.

Results: The overall recurrence rate was 12.3%. Stages T3-4 and the presence of more than three positive nodes on histopathologic examination were associated with a 16.2% and 26.2% incidence in recurrence at the primary site, respectively. No prognostic influence arose from primary tumor localization, three or fewer positive nodes, extranodal spread, and postoperative radiation therapy.

Conclusions: Patients with T3-4 disease and those with more than three positive lymph nodes may benefit from novel adjuvant treatment modalities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck
  • Neck Dissection
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Failure