JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Cervical metastases of occult origin: the impact of combined modality therapy.

BACKGROUND: We have updated our experience with metastatic carcinoma to the neck of occult origin to assess whether increasing use of adjunctive radiation therapy has had a significant impact.

METHODS: This retrospective review of 115 patients treated between 1977 and 1990 includes 73 (63%) with squamous cell carcinoma. These 73 patients were analyzed for survival, control of disease in the neck, and incidence of subsequent primary tumors.

RESULTS: There has been no change in the proportion of patients with advanced neck disease (N2/N3 = 52; 71%) when compared to our last report. Surgery included comprehensive neck dissection in 59 (81%) and adjunctive radiotherapy was employed in 54 (83% of surgically treated patients). Primary carcinomas within the head and neck were identified subsequently in 9 (12%) patients, including 4 of 11 (36%) who did not have adjunctive radiotherapy and 5 of 54 (9%) who did (P = 0.038). Control of the treated neck (54/73; 74%) has improved significantly (P = 0.005) when compared to our earlier experience (37/74; 50%), and this was most apparent in those with extensive neck disease. However, cumulative survival at 5 years (45%) was not significantly different from that previously reported.

CONCLUSION: Our data support the increased use of adjunctive radiation therapy for metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in the neck of occult origin. Control of neck disease has improved and the likelihood that a primary will be identified has been reduced, but there has been no improvement in survival when compared to historical controls.

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