The management for mucosal melanoma of the head and neck is controversial in view of the poor prognosis. Thirty-five patients seen from 1955 to 1991 were analyzed retrospectively. Almost all (34/35) presented with localized disease. Primary treatments included radical surgery (15), local resection (11), radiation therapy (6), or systemic treatment (2). While the rate of local recurrence was high (27/34), only 5 patients developed distant disease before local relapse. Furthermore, only 5/21 achieved successful local salvage. Patients with their disease controlled locally had significantly longer survival than those with persistent local disease (P = .0001). The 5-year disease-specific survival was 45%.
The authors conclude that mucosal melanoma of the head and neck is not necessarily incurable. When local control is achieved, survival rate is significantly improved. Aggressive local treatments should be initiated at presentation of this disease.