There is controversy regarding prognosis and treatment of young patients with oral cavity cancer compared to their older counterparts. We conducted a retrospective case-matched analysis of all adult patients younger than 40 years and treated at our institution for a squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity. Only non-metastatic adult patients (age >18) with oral tongue cancer were eventually included and matched 1:1 with patients over 40 years of age, at least 20 years older than the cases, with same T and N category and treatment period. Sixty-three patients younger than 40 had an oral cavity squamous cell cancer out of which 57 had an oral tongue primary during the period 1999–2012, and 50 could be matched with an older control. No difference could be seen between younger and older patients with regard to overall, cancer-specific, or progression-free survival. The patterns of failure were similar, although in young patients, almost all failures occurred during the first 2 years following treatment. Although overall survival shows a trend toward lower survival in older patients, cancer-specific survival and analysis of pattern failure suggest that disease prognosis is similar between young and older adults with oral tongue cancer. Further work is needed to identify the younger patients with poorer prognosis who overwhelmingly fail during the first year after treatment and could benefit from treatment intensification. Until then, young adults ought to be treated using standard guidelines.
Oral cavity cancer Tongue cancer Young adult Head and neck cancer Surgery
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Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
None of the authors has a conflict of interest regarding this research.
No specific funding was used.
Research involving human participants and/or animals
This research is a retrospective assessment of outcomes of patients receiving standard of care treatment, which is not considered as experimental.
Informed consent was waived due to the retrospective nature of the study, which was approved by the institutional review board.
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