Objective: Determine effects of chemoradiotherapy on nodal disease in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA).
Study Design: Matched case-control study.
Methods: A series of neck dissections (ND) performed for SCCA of the head and neck was retrospectively reviewed. Three groups were identified: 1) planned ND after chemoradiotherapy, 2) ND after radiotherapy alone, and 3) ND before adjuvant therapy (control group). Demographic data, tumor-node-metastasis stage, and pathology were reviewed. Total number of nodes recovered, number of positive nodes, and extracapsular spread (ECS) were recorded. To each patient in the chemoradiotherapy group, a randomly matched dissection in the control group was identified, matching for preoperative N stage and ND type (comprehensive, supraomohyoid, or selective). Comparisons were conducted for total nodes, presence of positive nodes, and ECS. Similar matched comparisons were conducted for ND after radiotherapy alone versus the control group.
Results: Ninety-seven NDs (N0 = 10 cases, N1 = 9, N2 = 69, and N3 = 9) were matched to control NDs without previous therapy. Total nodal yield was not statistically different between chemoradiotherapy and control groups (23.5 vs. 23.0 nodes, respectively, P = .77). Positive nodal yield was significantly lower for chemoradiotherapy versus control dissections (0.76 vs. 3.0, P < .001). The percent of chemoradiotherapy dissections recovered as positive nodes was 24.7% versus 68.0% of the control group (P < .001). ECS was identified in 13.4% of the chemoradiotherapy group versus 32.0% of the control group (P = .002). Radiotherapy alone produced less pronounced nodal reductions.
Conclusions: Chemoradiotherapy substantially decreases nodal disease and ECS in SCCA. However, a significant percentage of necks contain positive nodes after therapy, meriting consideration for ND.