Neck lymph node metastases from unknown primary

Alberto Daniele Arosio, Lorenzo Pignataro, Renato Maria Gaini, Werner Garavello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Metastatic cervical carcinoma from unknown primary is a metastatic disease in the lymph nodes of the neck without any evidence of a primary tumour after appropriate investigation. The condition is rare and definite evidence is lacking for both diagnosis and treatment. In this review of the literature, we tried to draw some clinical indications based on the few available studies. We ultimately came to the following conclusions: (1) a thorough and accurate diagnostic work-up should be systematically offered. It includes accurate inspection with fibroscopy, CT or MRI, fine needle aspiration, panendoscopy and positron emission tomography, (2) Patients with low-volume neck disease, N1 and N2a stage and without extracapsular extension on histopathological examination should receive single modality treatment. Radiotherapy and surgery may be similarly effective but, if possible, surgery (excisional biopsy, neck dissection and tonsillectomy) should be favoured because it consents a more precise staging, (3) patients with more advanced conditions require combined treatment in the form of either resection followed by adjuvant radiation (±chemotherapy) or primary chemoradiation (±post-therapy neck dissection).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Diagnosis
  • Metastatic cervical carcinoma from unknown primary
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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