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Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 Oct;135(10):1024-9. doi: 10.1001/archoto.2009.145.

Metastatic carcinoma of the neck of unknown primary origin: evolution and efficacy of the modern workup.

Author information

1
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the efficacy of various diagnostic modalities in detecting occult primary tumor location.

DESIGN:

Retrospective medical record study.

SETTING:

Academic head and neck oncology practice.

PATIENTS:

A total of 183 consecutive patients with metastatic carcinoma of the neck from an unknown primary tumor during a 10-year period, after exclusion of those with previous history of head and neck cancer, a primary tumor site evident on physical examination, or primary tumors of the neck.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Identification of primary tumor location by various imaging modalities and panendoscopy with directed biopsies.

RESULTS:

Primary tumor location was identified in 84 patients (45.9%). Preoperative imaging (computed tomography [CT], magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography [PET], and/or PET-CT fusion scan) identified sites suggestive of primary tumor location in 69 patients. Subsequent directed biopsy of these sites yielded positive results in 42 cases (60.9%). The rate of successful identification of a primary tumor for each of the imaging modalities was as follows: CT scan of the neck, 14 of 146 patients (9.6%); magnetic resonance imaging of the neck, 0 of 13 patients (0%); whole-body PET scan, 6 of 41 patients (14.6%); and PET-CT fusion study, 23 of 52 patients (44.2%) (P = .001). The highest yield in identifying primary tumor sites was obtained in patients who had undergone PET-CT plus panendoscopy with directed biopsies with or without tonsillectomy: 31 of 52 patients (59.6%).

CONCLUSION:

Diagnostic workup including PET-CT, alongside panendoscopy with directed biopsies including bilateral tonsillectomy, offers the greatest likelihood of successfully identifying occult primary tumor location.

PMID:
19841343
DOI:
10.1001/archoto.2009.145
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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