BACKGROUND: We investigated the role of the soft tissue tract between the primary tumor and the neck lymph nodes, the "T-N tract," in patients with tongue squamous cell carcinoma at an advanced stage.
METHODS: We performed a compartmental tongue surgery in 233 patients. Cumulative incidence of relapses and overall survival curves were compared by T-N tract involvement. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the independent role of T-N tract.
RESULTS: At 4 years of follow-up, patients with disease in the T-N tract experienced a significantly more distant recurrence (40%) than did patients without T-N tract involvement (22%; P = .02). Multivariate Cox models indicate a significant almost triple risk of distant metastases (hazard ratio [HR], 2.70; 95% CI, 1.01-7.19; P = .05) and double risk of death (HR, 2.09; 95%CI, 1.13-3.85; P = .02) in patients with "T-N tract involvement."
CONCLUSIONS: Our data show that the T-N tract plays an important role in prognosis and survival in patients with tongue cancer.