The uncertainty of the surgical margin in the treatment of head and neck cancer

We discuss our surgical philosophy concerning the subtle interplay between the size of the surgical margin taken and the resultant morbidity from ablative oncological. procedures, which is ever more evident in the treatment of head and neck malignancy. The extent of tissue resection is determined by the "trade off" between cancer control and the perioperative, functional and aesthetic morbidity and mortality of the surgery. We also discuss our dilemmas concerning recent minimally invasive endoscopic microsurgical. techniques for the trans-oral laser removal. or co-ablation of aero-digestive tract tumours, which result in a minimal. surgical margin of oncological clearance. By a process of inductive argument as to the nature of the surgical margin, we consider whether the risks of taking a lesser margin with adjuvant therapy is justified by the attendant gain in reduced surgical morbidity and the possible costs in tumour control. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
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