Clinical Topics & News

Predicting Tongue Cancer Recurrence

Researchers examine the rate of recurrence based on surgical technique in patients with tongue cancer.


For patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the tongue, recurrence is common and closely associated with survival, say researchers from Capital Medical University, Beijing. The researchers conducted a retrospective study of 204 patients with SCC of the tongue that aimed to identify the factors that predict relapse and prognosis.

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In an earlier study, the researchers assessed the best indications for neck dissection and the prognostic factors of oral SCC. Their results showed that middle-late oral SCC is an indication for simultaneous neck dissection, even in patients whose nodes are clear. But few studies have focused on the outcomes of treatment after different surgical approaches, such as en bloc resection and discontinuous resection. En bloc dissection requires continuity between the tumor and the level I neck nodes, and the technique involves removal of the sublingual gland and the mylohyoid muscle, as well as the associated sublingual nodes.

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Within the median follow-up of 82 months, 59 patients died (29%), 4 from non-cancer causes. Two patients in the en bloc group and 12 in the control group (discontinuous resection) had relapses. Ten of the 14 in this group had recurrences within a year of the first operation. Nine patients had salvage operations; however, only 2 experienced a successful outcome.

Surgical technique and pathological nodal (pN) status independently predicted both 5-year recurrence and disease-specific survival.

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The analysis showed a “dramatic” decrease in the 5-year disease-specific survival if the cancer recurred after the primary operation (no recurrence, 77% vs recurrence, 14%). Patients in the en bloc group “could expect an obviously lower” 5-year recurrence rate (2%, compared with 11% in the control group). They also had a better 5-year disease-specific survival (80%, versus 66%). An aggressive pN status was closely correlated with recurrence.

Feng Z, Xu QS, Qin LZ, et al. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2016;54(1):88-93.
doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2015.09.024

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