Surgery as a single modality therapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue

Wesley L. Hicks, James H. North, Thom R. Loree, Sherif Maamoun, Alan Mullins, James B. Orner, Vahram Y. Bakamjian, Donald P. Shedd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Purpose: The treatment of squamous cell cancer of the oral tongue remains a challenging clinical problem. The efficacy of primary treatment with surgery versus radiation therapy for early stage disease and an adequate treatment paradigm for the clinically negative neck continues to be the subject of clinical debate. We have reviewed our experience in the treatment of oral tongue cancer with surgery as a single definitive treatment modality. Patients and Methods: From 1971 to 1993, 79 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue were treated with surgery alone at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Results: Clinically, 69% of the patients presented with stage I/II disease and 31% presented with stage III/IV. Survival by pathological stage I to IV was 89%, 95%, 76%, and 65%, respectively. Surgical therapy ranged from partial to total glossectomy. There were no patients with positive margins. Local recurrence was observed in 15% of patients with close margins (<1 cm) and 9% of patients with adequate margins (≤1 cm). The incidence of pathological node positive (N+) disease was 6%, 36%, 50%, and 67% for T1, T2, T3, and T4 tumors, respectively. Twenty-five percent of patients undergoing elective neck dissection were pathological N+. All pathological confirmed nodal disease was at level I or II. Of the 43 patients with clinical NO disease, 16% subsequently developed regional recurrence, all of which were surgically salvaged. Conclusion: Locoregional control in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue can be achieved with primary surgical therapy. Adequate margins are crucial to local control. Salvage neck dissection may result in long-term survival for patients with regional relapse. Because of the high rate of occult disease (41%), we currently recommend prophylactic treatment of regional lymphatics for primary clinical disease of T2 or greater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-28
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


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