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Annals of Surgical Oncology

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Sentinel Node Biopsy in 105 High-Risk Cutaneous SCCs of the Head and Neck: Results of a Multicenter Prospective Study

Craig P. Mooney BSc, MBBS, Richard C. W. Martin MBChB, ChM, FRACS, Richard Dirven MD, PhD, Bruce G. Ashford FRACDS, FRACS, Kerwin Shannon MBBS, FRACS, Carsten E. Palme MBBS, FRACS, Quan Ngo MBBS (Hons), MS, FRACS, James Wykes MBBS, FRACS, Sarah Davies RN, BSc, Kan Gao BEng, Sydney Ch’ng MBBS, PhD, FRACS, Tsu-Hui Low MBBS (Hons), FRACS, Ruta Gupta MBBS, FRCPA, Jonathan R. Clark MBiostats, FRACS
Head and Neck Oncology
Volume 26, Issue 13 / December , 2019



Regional nodal metastases from cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is strongly associated with a poor prognosis, but these metastases are difficult to predict clinically. Sentinel node biopsy (SNB) has been used for a wide range of malignancies to assess for regional nodal metastasis, but is not widely used for cSCC.


Patients presenting with high-risk cSCC of the head and neck with clinically N0 necks were offered SNB at the time of primary cSCC excision or secondary wide local excision. Patients with positive sentinel nodes were offered completion lymph node dissection, and all the patients were followed up at regular intervals for up to 5 years.


In this study, 105 lesions underwent SNB, and 10 sentinel nodes (9.5%) were positive. In an additional five patients, regional recurrence developed after a negative sentinel node, with a total subclinical nodal metastasis rate of 14.3%. Nodal metastases were significantly associated with reduced disease-specific survival. The significant predictors of metastasis were four or more high-risk features or tumors with a concurrent invasion deeper than 5 mm and PNI.


For high-risk cSCC, SNB is a safe and feasible staging technique. The total number of high risk features and certain combinations of high-risk features predicted metastasis better than individual high-risk features.

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