Early tongue carcinoma: Analysis of failure

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Failure rate of surgery for early tongue carcinoma remains high. We sought to identify patterns of failure and recurrence risk factors.


Data review was carried out on 50 patients treated for early tongue carcinoma (T1/2N0M0); surgery was unsuccessful in 11 of these patients. All patients underwent transoral resection of the tongue tumor and prophylactic neck dissection (supraomohyoid).


Tumor recurred within 3 to 18 months. Nine died of disease. Four had failure in neck level 4, 6 in level 1, and 1 simultaneously in level 1 and locally. Most tumors were moderately differentiated. Average depth was 6.64 mm.


We report 11 patients with early tongue carcinoma who failed local excision with neck dissection. Failures occurred in level 4 (4 patients) and level 1 (7 patients). This group may benefit from extended neck surgery. Sex, age, stage, and depth of tumor were not significantly different in the group with treatment failure. Tumors in the group with treatment failure were more poorly differentiated.

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