Perineural spread of malignant head and neck tumors: review of the literature and analysis of cases treated at a teaching hospital

Abstract Perineural tumor spread refers to the migration of tumor cells along nerve tissues. It worsens the prognosis, increases the recurrence rate, and diminishes 5-year survival by up to 30%. It is an important finding on imaging tests employed in the staging of patients with head and neck cancers, because it cannot be assessed by the surgeon alone. Nevertheless, it is frequently overlooked. In this study, we reviewed the literature regarding the imaging and pathophysiological aspects of this type of dissemination. We also analyzed ten imaging tests, obtained from a teaching hospital in Brazil, in which there were radiological signs of perineural tumor spread.