The objective of this study is to report the long-term outcomes of salvage surgery following local and/or regional failure of tonsillar carcinoma treated with standard fractionation radiotherapy. All cases of carcinoma of the tonsil treated by radical radiotherapy at the Princess Margaret Hospital between January 1970 and December 1990 were reviewed retrospectively. Patients who underwent salvage surgery for local and/or regional recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil following radiation therapy were included for analysis. 239 out of 640 patients with tonsillar carcinoma recurred post radiotherapy. 175 patients were deemed candidates for surgical salvage. At the time of the last follow-up, only 13 patients were alive and 162 patients had died. The majority of patients (n = 96, 59%) died with disease. The median time to death was approximately 1.3 years following salvage surgery. The 5-year overall survival rate was 23%. The 5-year cause-specific survival was 40%. The probability of death due to disease was higher than the probability of death due to other causes. Both N-classification and T-classification were found to be significant predictors of time to death. In conclusion, in spite of the fact that the patients in this study had been treated prior to the widespread introduction of altered fractionation and concurrent chemoradiation for advanced tonsil carcinoma, it demonstrates the poor prognosis of recurrent disease. Despite the poor prognosis, 20% of patients will be alive at 5 years and therefore salvage surgery should be considered when possible.
- Radical radiotherapy
- Tonsillar carcinoma