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Surgery or Radiotherapy of the Primary Tumor in T1–2 Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma with Resectable N3 Nodes: A Multicenter GETTEC Study

Florent Carsuzaa MD, Juliette Thariat MD, PhD, Philippe Gorphe MD, Christian Righini MD, PhD, Alain Cosmidis MD, Sébastien Thureau MD, PhD, Maximilien Roge MD, Erwan De Mones MD, PhD, Stéphanie Servagi-Vernat MD, PhD, Denis Tonnerre MD, Sylvain Morinière MD, PhD, Amaury Dugas MD, Olivier Malard MD, PhD, François Pasquier MD, Sébastien Vergez MD, PhD, Julia Salleron MSc, Xavier Dufour MD, PhD
Head and Neck Oncology
Volume 26, Issue 11 / October , 2019



The prognosis of advanced nodal (N3) squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) is poor. We investigated whether surgery or radiotherapy of early (T1–2) primary stage HSNCC is preferable to limit the overall morbidity after upfront neck dissection (uND) for N3 disease.


This retrospective multicentric Groupe d’Étude des Tumeurs de la Tête Et du Cou study included patients undergoing uND and surgery or radiotherapy of their primary. Prognostic factors were evaluated using propensity score matching to account for biases in performing surgery depending on primary site and stage.


Of 189 T1–2, N3 HNSCC patients, 70 (37.0%) underwent uND: 42 with surgery of their primary and 28 with radiotherapy only. Radiotherapy alone was more frequent in patients with hypopharyngeal primaries. All local (N = 3) and regional (N = 10) relapses (included 2 locoregional relapses) occurred within the first 2 years. There were 16 distant metastatic failures. Five-year locoregional relapse and survival incidences were 15.7% and 66.5% and were similar regardless of the treatment of the primary. The overall morbidity rate was 65.2% and was similar after weighting by the inverse propensity score (p = 0.148). The only prognostic factor for morbidity was the radicality of the uND. Prolonged parenteral feeding was not more frequent in patients only irradiated to their primary (p = 0.118). Prolonged tracheostomy was more frequent after surgery of the primary.


In patients with T1–2, N3 HNSCC undergoing uND, radiotherapy and surgery of the primary yield similar oncological outcomes. Morbidity was related to the extent of neck dissection.

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