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Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Stage Information for Oropharyngeal Cancer

The staging systems for oropharyngeal cancer are all clinical and are based on the best possible estimate of the extent of disease before treatment. The assessment of the primary tumor is based on inspection and palpation, when possible, and by indirect mirror examination. The appropriate nodal drainage areas are examined by careful palpation.

The tumor must be confirmed histologically. Any other pathologic data obtained from a biopsy and additional radiographic studies may be included. As an adjunct to clinical examination, magnetic resonance imaging is used to evaluate the extent of disease in the soft tissues; computed tomography is used to evaluate the mandible and maxilla.[1] Positron emission tomography has been investigated as an imaging modality for recurrent oropharyngeal cancer.[2]

Complete endoscopy, typically under general anesthesia, is performed after completion of other staging studies to assess the surface extent of the tumor accurately, to assess deep involvement by palpation for muscle invasion, and to facilitate biopsy. Because of the incidence of multiple primary tumors occurring simultaneously, a careful search for other primary tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract is indicated.[3]

Definitions of TNM

The American Joint Committee on Cancer has designated staging by TNM classification to define oropharyngeal cancer.[3] Nonepithelial tumors such as those of lymphoid tissue, soft tissue, bone, and cartilage are not included.

Table 1. Primary Tumor (T)a
aReprinted with permission from AJCC: Pharynx. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 41-56.
bMucosal extension to lingual surface of epiglottis from primary tumors of the base of the tongue and vallecula does not constitute invasion of larynx.
TX Primary tumor cannot be assessed.
T0 No evidence of primary tumor.
Tis Carcinoma in situ.
T1 Tumor ≤2 cm in greatest dimension.
T2 Tumor >2 cm but ≤4 cm in greatest dimension.
T3 Tumor >4 cm in greatest dimension or extension to lingual surface of epiglottis.
T4a Moderately advanced local disease. Tumor invades the larynx, extrinsic muscle of tongue, medial pterygoid, hard palate, or mandible.b
T4b Very advanced local disease. Tumor invades lateral pterygoid muscle, pterygoid plates, lateral nasopharynx, or skull base, or encases carotid artery.
Table 2. Regional Lymph Nodes (N)a,b
aReprinted with permission from AJCC: Pharynx. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 41-56.
bMetastases at level VII are considered regional lymph node metastases.
NX Regional lymph nodes cannot be assessed.
N0 No regional lymph node metastasis.
N1 Metastasis in a single ipsilateral lymph node, ≤3 cm in greatest dimension.
N2 Metastasis in a single ipsilateral lymph node, >3 cm but ≤6 cm in greatest dimension, or metastasis in multiple ipsilateral lymph nodes, ≤6 cm in greatest dimension, or in bilateral or contralateral lymph nodes, ≤6 cm in greatest dimension.
N2a Metastasis in a single ipsilateral lymph node >3 cm but ≤6 cm in greatest dimension.
N2b Metastases in multiple ipsilateral lymph nodes, ≤6 cm in greatest dimension.
N2c Metastases in bilateral or contralateral lymph nodes, ≤6 cm in greatest dimension.
N3 Metastasis in a lymph node >6 cm in greatest dimension.
Table 3. Distant Metastasis (M)a
aReprinted with permission from AJCC: Pharynx. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 41-56.
M0 No distant metastasis.
M1 Distant metastasis.
Table 4. Anatomic Stage/Prognostic Groupsa
Stage T N M
aReprinted with permission from AJCC: Pharynx. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 41-56.
0 Tis N0 M0
I T1 N0 M0
II T2 N0 M0
III T3 N0 M0
T1 N1 M0
T2 N1 M0
T3 N1 M0
IVA T4a N0 M0
T4a N1 M0
T1 N2 M0
T2 N2 M0
T3 N2 M0
T4a N2 M0
IVB T4b Any N M0
Any T N3 M0
IVC Any T Any N M1

References

  1. Weber AL, Romo L, Hashmi S: Malignant tumors of the oral cavity and oropharynx: clinical, pathologic, and radiologic evaluation. Neuroimaging Clin N Am 13 (3): 443-64, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Wong RJ, Lin DT, Schöder H, et al.: Diagnostic and prognostic value of [(18)F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography for recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. J Clin Oncol 20 (20): 4199-208, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Pharynx. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 41-56.
  • Updated: November 18, 2014