Sentinel lymph node biopsy in head and neck cancer
In the past decade, the technique of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has been applied to a vast array of primary neoplasms, ranging from head and neck melanoma to vulvar carcinoma. At present, experience with SLNB is greatest in patients with melanoma and breast cancer. In view of the well known complications associated with cervical node dissection, it has been suspected for some time that cervical SLNB, if successful, might reduce the morbidity associated with the definitive care of patients with head and neck cancers. This report assesses the current status of SLNB in the treatment of head and neck cancers; while formal investigations of the efficacy of this technique are recommended, SLNB has not yet been demonstrated to possess the same level of utility seen in SLNB in melanoma and breast cancer patients. As a consequence, the application of SLNB to head and neck cancers remains an experimental technique--one which has not yet acquired the status of the standard of patient care.