In a review of 51 consecutive patients with previously untreated squamous cell carcinoma of the supraglottic larynx, five (9.8%) patients were found to have no mucosal abnormality on initial evaluation by both computed tomography (CT) and direct laryngoscopy. All five patients who manifested submucosal disease had at least one endoscopic procedure done with a biopsy negative for cancer before definitive diagnosis, resulting in an average delay from initial endoscopy to diagnosis of 19.8 weeks. These inapparent or “silent” neoplasms present unique problems in regard to establishing a diagnosis by routine biopsy techniques, even though CT reliably demonstrates their presence. Early diagnosis requires aggressive biopsy techniques based on CT findings.
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