Regional lymph node involvement and its significance in the development of distant metastases in head and neck carcinoma

Cancer. 1993 Jan 15;71(2):452-6. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19930115)71:2<452::aid-cncr2820710228>;2-b.


Background: The incidence of distant metastases in head and neck cancer patients is rising because of greater locoregional control of the disease.

Methods: The relative risks for having distant metastases as first site of failure relative to the regional lymph node involvement were determined.

Results: The overall incidence was 10.7%, with a clear relationship between the number of involved lymph nodes and extranodal spread on one hand, and distant spread on the other hand. The group with histopathologic presence of disease in the neck had twice as much distant metastases as did those with histopathologic absence (13.6% versus 6.9%). Patients with more than three histologically positive lymph nodes were most at risk for having distant metastases (46.8%). The presence of extranodal spread meant a threefold increase in the incidence of distant metastases, compared with patients without this feature (19.1% versus 6.7%).

Conclusions: Patients with three or more positive nodes and with extranodal spread may benefit from adjuvant systemic therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis