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Prognosis of oral cancer

In 2014, there were an estimated 346,902 people living with oral cavity and pharynx cancer in the United States. For oral cancer, death rates are higher among males, particularly those of African American descent. For oral cavity and pharynx cancer, 29.8% are diagnosed at the local stage. The 5-year survival for localized oral cavity and pharynx cancer is 83.7% (13).

The percent of oral cavity and pharynx cancer deaths is highest among people aged 55-64.

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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