Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma typically is diagnosed at an advanced stage, and the prognosis for patients with this type of malignancy is poor. Detection of these lesions at an earlier stage (e.g., as carcinoma in situ) would be of clear benefit to patients. However, it has been extremely difficult to detect carcinoma in situ at head and neck mucosal sites during routine endoscopy, even after numerous passes of the endoscope through the oral cavity and the pharynx.
The current clinical investigation was performed during routine endoscopic screening or surveillance procedures. The authors used a novel optical technique, known as narrowband imaging (NBI) that allows noninvasive visualization of the microvascular structure of an organ's surface using reflected light.
Between April 2002 and August 2003, 34 consecutive superficial lesions were found in 18 patients. Multifocal carcinoma was found in 5 patients (28%). The median age of the patients examined was 59.5 years (range, 43–71 years), and 83% of all patients were male. All lesions exhibited a microvascular proliferation pattern on magnified NBI. Thirteen patients with a combined total of 29 lesions underwent endoscopic resection under general anesthesia. The pyriform sinus was the most frequent primary site (66%; 19 of 29 lesions). The median tumor diameter was 20 mm (range, 1.3–40 mm). Twenty-one lesions (72%) were histologically confirmed to be carcinoma in situ, and the remaining lesions showed evidence of microinvasion (0.05–1 mm) beneath the epithelium. Vascular invasion was observed in only one lesion. The median hospital stay was 10 days (range, 4–18 days). All patients were discharged without severe complications. After a median follow-up period of 8 months (range, 1–16 months), there were no cases of local disease recurrence.
The authors stress the importance of endoscopic detection of superficial carcinoma at oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal mucosal sites. NBI is a promising and potentially powerful tool for identifying carcinomas at an earlier stage during routine endoscopic examination. Cancer 2004. © 2004 American Cancer Society.