Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Apr;18(2):124-33. doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283374ccf.

Searching for metachronous tumours in patients with head and neck cancer: the ideal protocol!

Author information

  • 1Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Nottingham University Hospital, UK.



As treatment changes in the management of head and neck cancer, patients are reportedly living longer; therefore, their death may be due to comorbidity, metastatic disease or the development of a metachronous second primary tumour (MSPT). This review describes recent developments in the identification of MSPTs of head and neck cancer, oesophagus and lung, and suggests/recommends an 'ideal surveillance protocol'.


The rate of MSPT development ranges between 6 and 9% annually for life. Improved accuracy in the detection of mucosal asymptomatic premalignant and early cancer has been enhanced by incorporating fluorescence spectroscopy in addition to modern flexible endoscopic techniques in the outpatient setting. Newer imaging has replaced old techniques (chest radiograph, barium swallow, etc.) by using radiotracer PET-computed tomography to detect local tumour activity. Further advances are anticipated in optical diagnostics and the incorporation of radiopharmaceuticals with labelled antibodies to enhance PET imaging, thus making tumour identification more accurate. Genetic classification of head and neck cancer has already identified high-risk patient groups, thereby allowing expensive tumour screening techniques to be used selectively and specifically. Patients who continue to smoke and abuse alcohol must be helped and encouraged to quit.


It is now possible to review traditional follow-up policy for treated head and neck cancer patients, to encourage the implementation of an evidence-based surveillance protocol, to identify only patients who are at high-risk of developing a MSPT, to incorporate modern targeted expensive tumour screening and to allow treatment of early cancer and effective treatment, thereby improving patients' quality of life and increasing survival.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk