Patients with cutaneous head and neck melanoma, particularly elderly with more advanced primary tumors, seem to benefit from initial CT staging before considering a sentinel lymph node biopsy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The role of CT scanning at the time of diagnosis for patients with primary cutaneous head and neck melanoma (cHNM) clinically asymptomatic for metastatic disease remains unclear. Aim: To determine the positive yield of initial CT scanning before considering sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) staging. Materials and methods: A retrospective review was performed on 170 consecutive patients with cHNM referred to a tertiary head and neck academic center for SLNBs from 2014 through 2018. Results: Initial CTs identified occult melanoma metastases in 7.1% and other advanced malignancies in 4.7%. The overall CT yield for patients >65 years (n = 115) was 13.9%, and 5.5% for patients <65 (only occult melanoma metastases). The SLNB yield did not differ between older (11.5%) and younger patients (10.2%). Patients with more advanced primary tumors were upstaged more often by both staging procedures. Multivariate analysis indicated a true-positive CT finding as the strongest prognostic factor for OS (p<.001). Conclusions and significance: The CT yield was >11% and higher for older than for younger patients. The findings suggest that CT imaging may be considered before SLNB staging, potentially identifying metastatic melanoma disease as well as other occult malignancies, enabling especially older patients to bypass the SLNB procedure.


  • Anna Hafström
  • Behzad Nateghi-Gillberg
  • Margareta A. Nilsson
  • Lennart Greiff
External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • CT, elderly, head and neck, Malignant melanoma, sentinel node, staging
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oto-Laryngologica
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020 Jun 10
Publication categoryResearch