Posttreatment Imaging in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer without Clinical Evidence of Recurrence: Should Surveillance Imaging Extend Beyond 6 Months?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Early detection of residual or recurrent disease is important for effective salvage treatment in patients with head and neck cancer. Current National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines do not recommend standard surveillance imaging beyond 6 months unless there are worrisome signs or symptoms on clinical examination and offer vague guidelines for imaging of high-risk patients beyond that timeframe. Our goal was to evaluate the frequency of clinically occult recurrence in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma with positive imaging findings (Neck Imaging Reporting and Data Systems scores of 2-4), especially after 6 months. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This institutional review board-approved, retrospective data base search queried neck CT reports with Neck Imaging Reporting and Data Systems scores of 2-4 from June 2014 to March 2018. The electronic medical records were reviewed to determine outcomes of clinical and radiologic follow-up, including symptoms, physical examination findings, pathologic correlation, and clinical notes within 3 months of imaging. RESULTS: A total of 255 cases, all with Neck Imaging Reporting and Data Systems scores of 2 or 3, met the inclusion criteria. Fifty-nine patients (23%) demonstrated recurrence (45 biopsy-proven, 14 based on clinical and imaging progression), and 21 patients (36%) had clinically occult recurrence (ie, no clinical evidence of disease at the time of the imaging examination). The median overall time to radiologically detected, clinically occult recurrence was 11.4 months from treatment completion. CONCLUSIONS: Imaging surveillance beyond the first posttreatment baseline study was critical for detecting clinically occult recurrent disease in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. More than one-third of all recurrences were seen in patients without clinical evidence of disease; and 81% of clinically occult recurrences occurred beyond 6 months.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gore, A; Baugnon, K; Beitler, J; Saba, NF; Patel, MR; Wu, X; Boyce, BJ; Aiken, AH

Published Date

  • July 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 41 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 1238 - 1244

PubMed ID

  • 32554418

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7357658

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1936-959X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3174/ajnr.A6614


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States