Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary

General Information

What is metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary?

Cancer is a disease in which certain cells begin to divide too quickly and without any order. Cancer can spread to tissues and organs near the place where it started (called the primary site). Cancer cells can also spread through the bloodstream and the lymph system to other parts of the body to form new tumors. Cancer that started in one place, but has spread to another part of the body is called metastatic cancer.

Squamous cells line the outside of many body organs, including the mouth, nose, skin, throat, and lungs. Cancer can begin in the squamous cells and spread (metastasize) from its original site to the lymph nodes in the neck or around the collarbone. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body. They produce and store infection-fighting cells. When the lymph nodes in the neck are found to contain squamous cell cancer, a doctor will try to find out where the cancer started (the primary tumor). If the doctor cannot find a primary tumor, the cancer is called a metastatic cancer with unseen (occult) primary.

A doctor should be seen if there is a lump or pain in the neck or throat that doesn't go away. If tissue that is not normal is found, the doctor will need to cut out a small piece and look at it under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. This is called a biopsy. If the biopsy shows that a person has squamous cell cancer, the doctor will do many kinds of tests to see whether a primary site can be found. If the primary site cannot be found, the doctor will treat the cancer in the neck.

The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on how many lymph nodes contain cancer, where the cancer is found in the neck, whether or not a primary tumor is found, and the patient's general state of health.

Stage Information

Stages of metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary:

Once metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary is found, more tests will be done to find out how far the cancer cells have spread. This is called staging. A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment. The following stages are used for metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary:

Untreated metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary means no treatment has been given for the cancer except to treat symptoms.

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the neck or in another part of the body.

Treatment Option Overview

How metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary is treated:

There are treatments for all patients with metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary. Two kinds of treatment are used:

-surgery (taking out the cancer)
-radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)
-Chemotherapy is being studied in clinical trials.

Surgery is a common treatment of metastatic neck cancer. A doctor may cut out the lymph nodes that contain cancer and some of the healthy lymph nodes around them (lymph node dissection).

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes that are put into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy). External radiation to the thyroid or the pituitary gland may change the way the thyroid gland works. The doctor may wish to test the thyroid gland before and after therapy to make sure it is working properly.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the neck.

Treatment By Stage

Treatment of metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary depends on how many lymph nodes contain cancer, whether or not an original (primary) tumor is found, and the patient's age and overall condition.

Standard treatment may be considered because of its effectiveness in patients in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are ongoing in some parts of the country for metastatic squamous neck cancer.

Untreated Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer With Occult Primary
Treatment may be one of the following:

1. Surgery to remove the lymph nodes in the neck (lymph node dissection).
2. Radiation therapy.
3. Radiation therapy plus surgery.
4. A clinical trial that includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or

Recurrent Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer With Occult Primary
Treatment depends on the type of treatment the patient had before, where the cancer came back, and the patient's health. A patient may want to take part in a clinical trial of new treatments.

The information on this page was obtained from the National Cancer Institute. The National Cancer Institute provides accurate, up-to-date information on many types of cancer, information on clinical trials, resources for people dealing with cancer, and information for researchers and health professionals.

The National Cancer Institute is in no way affiliated with the Mary Stolfa Cancer Foundation.

The information on this web site is provided for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are familiar with your individual medical needs. The MSCF disclaims all obligations and liabilities for damages arising from the use or attempted use of the information, including but not limited to direct, indirect, special, and consequential damages, attorneys' and experts' fees and court costs. Any use of the information will be at the risk of the user.

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