Elective neck dissection versus observation in the treatment of early oral tongue carcinoma

Head Neck. 1997 Oct;19(7):583-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0347(199710)19:7<583::aid-hed4>3.0.co;2-3.


Background: The aim of the present review is to evaluate the results of elective neck dissection and "watchful waiting" in the surgical treatment of stages I and II squamous cell carcinoma of oral tongue.

Methods: This is a retrospective study of patients with surgical treatment between January 1980 and December 1994.

Results: There were 63 patients including those with 34 T1 and 29 T2 carcinoma. The first sites of tumor recurrence were 5 (8%) local, 17 (27%) regional, 2 (3%) distant, 1 (2%) locoregional, and 1 (2%) both regional and distant. Of the 30 NO neck patients who had no elective neck dissection, the regional recurrence rate was 47%, and eventually 23% died of tumor related to regional recurrence. Elective neck dissection significantly reduced the regional recurrence rate to 9% and also significantly reduced the regional recurrence related mortality to 3%. Elective neck dissection also increased the 5-year disease-free actuarial survival rate to 86% compared with 55% for "watchful waiting."

Conclusions: Regional recurrence was the most common cause of failure after surgical treatment of oral tongue carcinoma. Elective neck dissection significantly reduced mortality due to regional recurrence and also increased the overall survival. There was no significant difference between elective radical neck dissection and selective I, II, and III neck dissection in the improvement of treatment results. This retrospective study suggests that elective selective I, II, III neck dissection is a treatment strategy of choice for stages I and II carcinoma of the oral tongue. A prospective randomized study is worthwhile to further evaluate the benefit of elective neck dissection in the treatment of early carcinoma of the tongue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tongue Neoplasms / mortality
  • Tongue Neoplasms / surgery
  • Tongue Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome