Parotid and neck metastases from cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

V G Khurana, D H Mentis, C J O'Brien, T L Hurst, G N Stevens, N A Packham
American Journal of Surgery 1995, 170 (5): 446-50

BACKGROUND: Approximately 5% of cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) metastasize to regional nodes. Nodal involvement may be more common for cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck, but few large series have reported clinical outcome after treatment of parotid gland and neck metastases from these cancers.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A combined retrospective/prospective study of patients treated between 1983 and 1994 was performed. There were 69 men and 6 women, with a median age of 67 years. Twenty-nine patients had neck metastases, and 33 had parotid gland metastases, while 13 patients had involvement at both sites. Of the 75 patients, 68 were treated surgically and 50 received postoperative radiotherapy.

RESULTS: The facial nerve was sacrificed totally in 6 patients and partially in 9. Histologic extranodal spread was present in 48 (71%) of all surgically treated patients. Among 61 patients followed up to recurrence, or for greater than 12 months, 26 (43%) developed recurrence--12 in the parotid gland, 7 in the neck, and 7 in both sites. Multiple recurrences were common and occurred at a median of 8 months after surgery. Positive surgical margins were associated with poorer local disease control (P < 0.05). Cumulative survival at 5 years was 61%, but only 15 of 70 evaluable patients (21%) were eligible for follow-up at this time. Neck involvement with or without parotid gland disease was associated with an increased risk of distant metastases, but this was not statistically significant. Postoperative radiotherapy was not associated with improved disease control.

CONCLUSION: Cutaneous, metastatic SCC involving the parotid gland and neck is an aggressive disease with a tendency to an infiltrative growth pattern and multiple recurrences. More aggressive surgery may be justified to reduce the incidence of regional failure after parotidectomy and neck dissection.

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