JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Sentinel lymph node evaluation in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck cancer: preliminary results.

INTRODUCTION: Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a new technique in staging the clinically NO neck. Tumour spread to the neck is the most important prognostic factor in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Patients with histologically confirmed HNSCC, with no clinical and no radiological (CT or MRI) evidence of cervical lymph node involvement were eligible for this prospective study. The lymph node mapping was performed by preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperative use of hand-held gamma probe. Four injections (with Tc 99m-labeled nanocolloids) were performed around the primary tumour. The SLN, as indicated by dynamic scintigraphy and the neck dissection specimen, were sent separately for histological analysis. The presence of occult metastasis in the SLN and in the neck dissection specimen were compared.

RESULTS: Ten consecutive patients (8 males ; 2 females) with a mean age of 61 years (range 47 to 74 years) were prospectively entered into the study. The primary tumour was located on the oral tongue in 4 cases, in the floor of the mouth in 5 cases and in the oropharynx in 1 case. Primary tumours were staged T2 in nine cases, one tumour was staged T1 according to UICC 1997. All the tumours were clinically staged cN0 by palpation and computed tomography (or MRI). Lymphoscintigraphy was performed and revealed a SLN in all cases. The sentinel node biopsy technique permitted an upstaging of the clinically cN0 neck in 3/10 cases. The SLN technique was false negative in one patient with a skip metastasis.

CONCLUSION: SLN evaluation in HNSCC is feasible and provides a highly accurate staging of NO necks in oral and oropharyngeal carcinomas.

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