No method reliably detects residual low-volume nodal disease in a patient with a complete response (CR) to treatment. Control of the N0-1 neck is to be expectd after CR; no treatment is needed. Positron emission tomography (PET) may improve patient selection, but neck dissection should still be performed for patients with good performance status and residual masses. Neck dissection reduces the incidence of regional recurrence, although the impact on survival is small. Whether the risk of tumor recurrence or the morbidity of neck dissection should be of greater concern for patients with N2-3 disease in CR is a matter of individual judgment. Combined modality therapy will control most nodal metastases (even for patients with advanced nodal disease). Neck dissection in patients presenting with bulky nodal disease who achieve a CR after combined modality therapy will diminish the regional recurrence rate by about 15%. Nowadays, patients with N3 disease and CR often still have residual neck tumor. Node dissection is to be advised. Neck dissection should still be considered an important treatment modality for patients who undergo combined modality therapy with advanced nodal disease, even if they have achieved a CR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas