The clinical records of 26, predominantly male, adults with rhabdomyosarcomas in the head and neck were analyzed. Patients' ages ranged from 18 to 74 years (mean: 24.5 years). According to the retrospective clinical group classification, 18 (69%) of 26 were advanced tumors at initial presentation belonging to group III or IV. The ethmoids were the most common primary site of origin in 12 (46%) of 26 patients. Nodal and systemic metastases were noted in 12 (46%) and 6 (23%) patients, respectively. Bone metastases were noted in 4 patients.
Heterogeneous treatment protocols were used with a variety of chemotherapy combinations in most cases, with surgery and radiotherapy. Overall results were poor, with a survival rate of 7.6% at 5 years. Neither histopathology nor response to chemotherapy was found to influence survival. All longterm survivors belonged to the early-stage groups (clinical groups I and II) for which complete surgical excision was possible.
In spite of a poor prognosis after relapse, the use of aggressive chemotherapy appeared to prolong life in some patients.