The gold standard of treatment of cancer of the lateral wall of the oropharynx continues to be unclear, especially in advanced stages. In this study, we report our experience with surgical treatment of these cancers and describe the functional and oncological results of the procedures.
A total of 155 previously untreated patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the lateral wall of the oropharynx who underwent a surgical resection of the lesion at our department from January 1990 to January 2008 were included. Sixty-seven percent of these patients received postoperative radiotherapy. The records of these patients were reviewed to obtain measures such as local and regional control, disease-specific survival, and speech and swallowing function.
Six patients had a stage I disease, 15 had a stage II disease, 31 had a stage III disease, 86 had a stage IVA, and 17 had stage IVB disease. The overall recurrence rate was 60%, and the local recurrence rate was 40%. The 5-year overall survival and disease-specific survival rates were 33% and 43%, respectively. Five-year disease-specific survival rates by stage were as follows: 100%, 59%, 57%, 31%, and 33% for stages I to IVB, respectively. Multivariate analysis showed two parameters that were independent predictors of a reduced disease-specific survival: cervical lymph node metastases pN2–3 (P = .027) and primary tumor classified as pT3–4 (P = .029). In 122 patients, a tracheotomy was performed, and it couldn't be sealed in 23% of them. Oral alimentation was successfully recovered in 93% of the patients.
Surgical treatment of cancer of the lateral wall of the oropharynx provides acceptable oncological and functional results, especially in early and moderately advanced stages (stages I–III). In advanced stages (stage IV), we obtained good functional preservation rates but poor oncological outcomes. Consequently, these groups of patients could be considered for another treatment modality, such as radiochemotherapy.