CANCER in the head and neck area is relatively easy to diagnose and usually remains localized; few patients die from distant metastases. However, it remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 32,400 new cases in 1975 and that 11,450 patients will die from this disease.
Surgery and radiation therapy have proved effective methods of therapy; chemotherapy may be useful in the future. These three modalities have their greatest effectiveness on different portions of the tumor: surgery in removing the central core, radiation in destroying the peripheral margin, and chemotherapy in ablating microscopic metastases.
Small early epithelial cancers (T1, N0 [tumor-node classification according to the American Joint Committee for Cancer Staging and End Results Reporting, 1968]) in the head and neck region are adequately treated by either surgery or radiation therapy, with high local