Efficacy of neck treatment in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma




Treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) addresses the primary tumor and the lymphatic drainage. Modalities for the neck are neck dissection and/or radiation therapy. In most cases, the neck is treated by the modality that seems more appropriate for the primary. The aim of this study was to analyze the results of the neck treatments either by neck dissection alone, by radiation therapy alone or by neck dissection followed by radiation therapy.


This was a retrospective chart analysis of 699 patients treated for a previously untreated HNSCC. The primary endpoint was recurrence at the treated neck.


Two hundred eighty-one (40%) patients underwent primary neck irradiation, 219 (31%) neck dissection alone, and 199 (29%) neck dissection followed by adjuvant irradiation. The 5-year regional control rates after neck dissection alone were 83% for pN0, 75% for pN1, 60% for pN2a, 59% for pN2b, and 50% for pN2c; after radiation alone, 89% for cN0, 87% for cN1, 40% for cN2a, 60% for cN2b, and 48% for cN2c; and after neck dissection with adjuvant radiation, 86% for pN0, 96% for pN1, 100% for pN2a, 88% for pN2b, and 88% for pN2c.


Radiation or neck dissection alone are efficient to control early neck disease. For advanced N2/3 neck disease, neck dissection followed by adjuvant radiation is highly efficient, whereas primary radiation results in a high number of regional failures. The literature suggests planned neck dissection to improve regional control for these patients. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2008