• depth of invasion;
  • oral tongue cancer;
  • outcome;
  • prognostic factors



The objective of this study was to report the authors' experience in the management of patients with early stage squamous cell cancer (SCC) of the oral tongue and determine clinicopathologic factors predictive of outcome.


Two hundred sixteen patients with early stage (cT1T2N0) SCC of the oral tongue were identified from a pre-existing database of patients with oral cancer who were treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 1985 to 2005. Patient, tumor, and treatment characteristics were recorded. Overall survival (OS), disease-specific survival (DSS), and recurrence free survival (RFS) were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Predictors of outcome were identified using multivariate analysis.


With a median follow-up of 80 months (range, 1-186 months), the 5-year DSS, OS, and RFS rates were 86%, 79%,and 70%, respectively. Local, neck, and distant recurrences occurred in 24 patients (11%), 40 patients (18%), and 5 patients (2%), respectively. Multivariate analysis identified occult neck metastases as the main independent predictor of OS, DSS, and RFS; patients who had occult metastases had a 5-fold increased risk of dying of disease compared with patients who did not have occult metastases (5-year DSS, 85.5% vs 48.5%; P = .001). A positive surgical margin was the main independent predictor for local RFS (91% vs 66% for a negative surgical margin; P = .0004), and depth of invasion was the main predictor for neck RFS (91% vs 73% for depth of invasion <2 mm and >2 mm, respectively; P = .02).


In the authors' experience, patients with early stage oral tongue cancer have excellent outcomes. In the current study, the presence of occult metastases was the main predictor of survival outcome. Cancer 2012;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.