The problem of neck relapse in early stage supraglottic larynx cancer
We reviewed the records of 104 patients with Stage T1NO or Stage T2NO epidermoid carcinoma of the supraglottic larynx treated between 1965 and 1979. In 79 patients, surgery was the only type of initial treatment. These 79 patients are the subjects of this report. Forty-eight (61%) of these patients were treated by total laryngectomy, whereas 31 (39%) had a partial laryngectomy. An elective unilateral radical neck dissection was performed on 31 patients considered at high risk, but metastatic disease was found in the dissected side of the neck histologically in only 32% (ten of 31) of these patients. The minimum follow-up period was 5 years and the maximum was 20 years. Twenty-nine percent of the patients (23 of 79) experienced a neck relapse. The neck relapse rate was the same whether the patients did or did not have an elective radical neck dissection. Among the patients who experienced a neck relapse, 65% (15 of 32) have died of the cancer. Among those who did not experience a neck relapse, none (zero of 56) have died of the cancer (P less than 0.01). These results indicate that in surgically treated patients with early stage supraglottic larynx cancer, neck relapse was the major cause of failure associated with death from cancer. Strategies for decreasing the relapse rate are discussed.