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Semin Oncol. 2007 Feb;34(1):3-14.

Small cell carcinoma of the head and neck: a review.

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Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, MO 65212, USA.


Small cell carcinoma (SCC) has become recognized as a distinct, though relatively infrequent, clinical pathology that occurs in multiple sites throughout the head and neck. Excluding cases that are considered to arise from skin, SCC in the head and neck has been found to develop in nearly all structures associated with the upper aerodigestive tract. Among the head and neck sites, the frequency of SCC is greatest in the larynx, with salivary glands and the sinonasal region comprising the other principle areas of origin. Controversy exist as to whether SCC can develop as a distinct entity in the thyroid, with most tumors that previously would have been considered as SCC now found to be lymphomas or variant forms of other types of thyroid malignancy. While there seems to be some differences among tumors arising from the various subsites, in general all SCC that originate in the head and neck have a tendency for aggressive local invasion and a strong propensity for both regional and distant metastasis. Treatment may include surgical resection, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or some combination of these modalities. Due to the infrequency of these tumors, it is very unlikely that any large, controlled study will ever be done. For this reason, recommendations for treatment of SCC arising in the head and neck are based primarily on retrospective data from various small case series and on comparative data for treatment of SCC of bronchogenic and other extrapulmonary origin. Although patients with truly limited local disease may enjoy some prolonged survival, most patients with this tumor do poorly despite all current attempts at treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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