The Prognosis of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Involving Masticatory Muscles: A Retrospective Analysis for Revising T Subclassifications

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This work is a retrospective study of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and T-stage subclassifications of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) involving the masticatory muscles (MMs). We examined how involvement of MMs influences the clinical T-stage classifications and the survival outcomes of NPC patients.

MRI data as well as the medical records from 816 NPC patients were analyzed retrospectively. All cases were restaged according to the seventh edition of American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system criteria. The overall survival (OS), local relapse-free survival (LRFS), and distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) were analyzed by the Kaplan–Meier method, and their survival outcomes between different degrees of MM involvement and different T classifications were compared by using the log-rank test. All statistical analyses were conducted on SPSS 18.0 software. P > 0.05 was considered significant.

Of the 816 NPC patients analyzed, 283 (34.68%) had tumors that involved MMs. All of those 283 patients involved the medial pterygoid muscle, and 125 cases (15.32%) involved the lateral pterygoid muscle. Multivariate analysis identified MM involvement as an independent prognostic factor for patient's OS (P = 0.007) and LRFS (P = 0.024). MM involvement significantly correlated with a lower OS and LRFS (P < 0.01). In addition, compared with concurrent involvement of the medial and lateral pterygoid muscle, the medial pterygoid muscle involvement correlated with a higher OS and LRFS (P < 0.05). Among NPC patients, T-classifications 1 to 4 usually predicted the ultimate OS, LRFS, and DMFS (P > 0.1), unless the cancer involved the lateral pterygoid muscle.

NPC involving the lateral pterygoid muscle presents a worse survival outcome than that involving the medial pterygoid muscle. Any cancer involving the lateral pterygoid muscle should be classified in a higher T-stage subclassification.

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