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Prognosis of oral cancer

Patients with early stages of squamous epithelial carcinomas (T1–T2, N0) have a relatively good prognosis.

Long-term survival is reduced with locally advanced disease (T3–T4), as well as with the presence of lymph node metastases on the neck. With spreading of lymph nodes in the neck, the disease-specific survival is halved compared to the same T-stage without spreading. Increasing N-category also increases the risk for distant metastases.

Annually, about 3% of patients develop secondary malignant tumor in the head/neck region, lungs, or esophagus (6, 11).

Five to ten percent will develop distant metastasis later in the disease course. Autopsy material shows a significantly higher frequency (2).

Confirmed distant metastasis at presentation usually precludes curative treatment. The prognosis for locoregional recurrence is 20% survival after five years (2).



Five-year relative survival for patients with oral cancer, in percent, during the diagnosis period 1974–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway


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