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Should we treat lung metastases from adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck in asymptomatic patients?

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June 1, 2009
by Irfan M. Syed, BSc, MRCS, DO-HNS and David J. Howard, FRCS, FRCS (Edin)


Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare malignant tumor that is well known for its deceptively encouraging 5-year survival rate and its dismal survival rate at longer intervals. Controversy exists as to the benefit of regularly following asymptomatic patients to look for distant metastases because even if one is found, the options for further management are limited. When a metastasis is limited to the lung in an asymptomatic patient with no locoregional recurrence, metastasectomy might provide some long-term benefit, although we cannot know for certain. We encountered such a case, and we opted for surgical resection rather than a conservative approach. There is a need for multicenter trials so that the management of such patients, be it active or conservative, can be evidence-based.

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