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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80-85

Oral and maxillofacial malignancies: An analysis of 77 cases seen at an academic medical hospital

Department of Surgery, Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication16-Dec-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Adebayo Aremu Ibikunle
Department of Surgery, Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, PMB 12003, Sokoto
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-8844.195919

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Introduction: Oral and maxillofacial malignancies (OMMs) consist of a wide range of lesions, which constitute varying proportions of the total incidence of malignancies in the human population. Available epidemiological data vary across racial, geographical, gender, and occupational divides. They are often associated with significant impairment of patients' quality of life. Materials and Methods: A review of hospital records of patients with histologically diagnosed primary OMM, who presented to the Department of Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, over a 5-year period, was done. Data including age, gender, site, and type of tumor, and histological grade of tumor were retrieved and analyzed with the SPSS version 20.0. Results: A total of 77 cases of OMMs were identified with a male/female ratio of 1:1.03. The mean (±standard deviation) age was 50.1 (17.8) years. Squamous cell carcinoma was the most frequently seen epithelial malignancy constituting 35.1% of all malignancies, with most patients in advanced stages of the disease. Osteosarcoma was the most frequently diagnosed sarcoma, constituting 11.7% of all malignancies seen. Salivary gland malignancies constituted 29 (37.7%). Other malignancies seen include, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, leiomyosarcoma, and malignant melanoma. Conclusion: OMMs constitute a significant health burden in our region. Thus, adequate resources should be allocated toward improving awareness among the populace. Policy shifts and regular dental visits which may increase the likelihood of early intervention should be instituted.

Keywords: Carcinoma, maxillofacial region, oral and maxillofacial malignancies, sarcoma

How to cite this article:
Ibikunle AA, Taiwo AO, Braimah RO. Oral and maxillofacial malignancies: An analysis of 77 cases seen at an academic medical hospital. J Orofac Sci 2016;8:80-5

How to cite this URL:
Ibikunle AA, Taiwo AO, Braimah RO. Oral and maxillofacial malignancies: An analysis of 77 cases seen at an academic medical hospital. J Orofac Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 May 8];8:80-5. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Oral and maxillofacial malignancies (OMMs) are malignancies affecting the oral and/or the maxillofacial regions often involving the oral mucosa or underlying structures in the area between the vermillion border of the lip and the faucial pillars superolaterally and the base of the tongue inferiorly. Others structures typically involved include the maxilla, mandible, other facial skeleton and face, facial skin, its skeleton, and salivary glands.

OMMs are associated with significant cosmetic and functional limitations.[1],[2],[3] In addition, both the presence of OMM and its treatment often result in significant deterioration in the patient's quality of life.[4] Several descriptive studies on OMM have focused on the pediatric population; few have explored data of the adult age groups, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Epidemiological data on OMMs are generally scarce, especially from developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, this study aims to describe the pattern of OMMs in Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH).

  Materials and Methods Top

This was a review of hospital records of all patients with histologically diagnosed primary oral and/or maxillofacial malignancy who presented to the Department of Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery, UDUTH, over a 6-year period (January 2010 to January 2015). UDUTH is a 1000-bed capacity tertiary regional referral center. It is located in the remote corner of Northwestern part of Nigeria and serves a population of about 26 million from within Nigeria and the neighboring countries of Niger and Benin republic.

The extents of the lesions were determined by visual and radiological examination, including the use of plain radiographs, ultrasound scan, and computed tomography scan. Histological diagnoses were obtained by incisional or excisional biopsy. Data including gender, age, site and type of tumor, and histological grade where applicable, were retrieved from the case notes of patients and analyzed with IBM SPSS statistics for windows version 20 (Armonk, NY: IBM Corp)” software.

  Results Top

A total of 204 oral maxillofacial tumors were diagnosed over the study period of 5 years with 77 (37.8%) diagnosed as malignancies. There were 38 (49.4%) males and 39 (50.7%) females (male:female = 1:1.03) [Figure 1]. The age of the patients ranged from 2 to 78 years (mean age 50.1 years, ±17.8 standard deviation [SD]) [Table 1]. The modal age of presentation was the third decade of life. Fifty three (68.8%) of the lesions were determined to have affected both soft and hard tissues, whereas 24 (31.2%) cases affected the soft tissues only, with the buccal mucosa most frequently involved [Table 2]. All primary intrabony tumors were located in the molar/ramus area of the mandible and the maxillary antrum.
Figure 1: Sex distribution among all oral and maxillofacial malignancies

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Table 1: Pattern of tumor presentation

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Table 2: Frequency of each site involvement

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Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was the most common malignancy 27 (35.1%), with the moderately differentiated histological grade constituting 14 (51.9%) of the SCC cases reviewed [Figure 2] and [Table 3]. Majority of the patients diagnosed with SCC were at least 40 years of age (20 [74.1%]) (mean [±SD] = 52.1 [14.6]). Most of the patients diagnosed with SCC were in Stages III and IV, indicating late hospital presentation [Figure 3]. The gingivae was the most frequent site for SCC [Figure 4].
Figure 2: Percentage distribution of tumours

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Table 3: Stages of squamous cell carcinoma

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Figure 3: Pattern of presentation of squamous cell carcinoma by clinical stage

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Figure 4: Distribution of squamous cell carcinoma according to site

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Osteogenic sarcoma 9 (11.7%) was the most commonly diagnosed sarcoma, with mean age (±SD) of 34.3 (±21.7) years [Table 1]. The most frequent site of occurrence for sarcomas was the mandible [Figure 5]. Rhabdomyosarcoma and Burkitt's lymphoma were seen exclusively in patients in their first or second decade of life. The mean (±SD) age for patients diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma and Burkitt's lymphoma was 7 (±4.6) and 11 (±1.9), respectively [Table 1].
Figure 5: Distribution of sarcomas according to site

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Salivary gland malignancies constituted 29 (37.7%), with mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) occurring most frequently [Table 1]. The mean age (±SD) of occurrence was 39.9 (±19.2). There was a male preponderance with a male:female ratio of 1:0.4. The histological grades of MEC seen were almost evenly distributed among the high (35.7%), intermediate (35.7%), and low grades (28.6%). The most frequent site of occurrence for salivary malignancies is the palate [Figure 6]. However, the maxillary antrum was the most common site for MEC being the site of occurrence in 50% of cases [Figure 6]. Other relatively rare malignancies such as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, leiomyosarcoma, and malignant melanoma were also seen.
Figure 6: Distribution of salivary gland malignancies according to site

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  Discussion Top

A variety of tumors were seen in this study with malignancies constituting a significant proportion of the tumors seen. The frequency of malignancies observed is higher than other reports in the literature such as that by Jaafari-Ashkavandi and Ashraf, who observed malignancies in 24.6% of the orofacial tumors studied.[5]

There was an almost equal sex distribution in this study, which contrasts with Abdulai et al., which gave a male to female ratio of 1.86:1.[6] However, the overall mean age seen in this series is similar to the report by Ali and Sundaram.[7] Majority of the malignancies seen involved both soft and hard tissues as a result of contiguous spread, which may be attributed to late presentation by patients.

Malignant epithelial lesions were the most common malignancies, with SCC making up over 95% of the malignant epithelial lesions seen. This is in conformity with other reports in the literature.[7],[8],[9],[10] Furthermore, the proportion of oral SCC in comparison to other malignancies was quite high and this may be a reflection of increasing use of tobacco in its various forms, among the populace.[11],[12] Tobacco alone or in synergy with alcohol predispose to the development of SCC.[13],[14] In addition, there is evidence that heavy drinkers have a 30 times greater risk of developing oral and oropharyngeal cancer.[15],[16],[17] It has been reported that the most common site for intraoral malignancies is the tongue.[18],[19] In contrast to these reports, the buccal mucosa and gingivae were the most common sites of intraoral epithelial malignancies in this study. This may be attributed to the use of smokeless tobacco which may be placed in the buccal vestibule to produce a sustained release of nicotine.[20],[21],[22]

The lower lip was identified as a common site for SCC in this study, no case of primary involvement of the upper lip was identified. Remarkably, all the patients with SCC of the lower lip were males, this may be an indication of the detrimental effects of excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays by patients in a community where about 70% of the population are engage in agriculture and are thus exposed to sunlight more than others.[23],[24] In addition, this study was done in Northern Nigeria where the weather is drier and sunnier.[25] The upper lip may have been uninvolved because the nasal pyramid and its soft tissue structure offer some protection to the upper lip, furthermore the anatomical prominence of the lower lip gives it greater exposure to sunlight.

A vast majority of the patients with SCC were in Stages III and IV of the disease at diagnosis, which is indicative of late hospital presentation. This contrasts sharply with the reports of Gorsky and Dayan and Seoane-Romero et al., who reported late presentation in 25% and 54.5% of the patients studied, respectively.[26],[27] Nevertheless, late presentation as seen in this study was alluded to by other authors.[1],[28] Patients in developing countries like ours often seek conventional treatment after having exhausted other alternatives such as traditional healers and local chemists. Furthermore, the frequency of occurrence of these lesions in relatively obscure sites such as the retromolar trigone, may have contributed to late presentation. Hence, they often present with massive tumors whose initial site is difficult to assess. However, malignancies of the lip, tongue, or buccal mucosa have been associated with relatively early presentation, perhaps because of better visibility.[27]

Sub-types of SCC such as verrucous carcinoma were infrequently seen, similar to reports by Akhtar et al., but in sharp contrast with the report of Khandekar et al.[29],[30] No case of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) was identified, which is in sharp contrast to the reports by Lohmann and Solomon, and Chung, who observed more cases of BCC than SCC.[31],[32] This may be related to the fact that the population studied by them consisted mainly of Caucasians, who are mostly fair skinned, unlike this study which examined records from a West-African population. Furthermore, this study lends credence to reports that SCC is the most prevalent epithelial malignancy of the orofacial region.[33],[34] Moderately differentiated SCC was most frequently seen which is in consonance with the report by Agarwal et al., who analyzed 42 cases.[34] In this study, 32.1% of the SCC was well differentiated, which contrasts heavily with the study of Agarwal et al., who found no case in this category.[34]

Sarcomas accounted for most of the mesenchymal tumors seen. In this series, majority of the sarcomas were osteosarcomas, which were seen most frequently in the mandible. Markedly, some authors deem it to be a rare malignancy.[35] The mean age at presentation differs from reported peak age of incidence in literature, perhaps because this study analyzed cases of osteosarcoma of the maxillofacial region.[36],[37] However, it is consistent with reported figures in the literature for osteosarcoma of the jaws.[35] Three of the patients were children, which is inconsistent with reports in the literature, where various authors suggest that it is very rarely seen in children.[35],[38],[39] Rhabdomyosarcoma was seen exclusively in patients in their first decade of life, which is similar to the reports in the literature.[40],[41]

Burkitt's lymphoma was the most common lymphoproliferative tumor seen, most of which affected the mandible and/or maxilla. The high proportion of Burkitt's lymphoma observed is dissimilar to reports from studies in the Western world but similar to African studies.[42],[43] This finding may be related to the fact that this study was done in a malaria endemic region which predisposes to development of this lesion.[44],[45] Indeed, racial influences on the epidemiology of Burkitt's lymphoma have been alluded to.[42]

MEC was the most frequently diagnosed malignant salivary gland lesion, affecting the antrum in slightly less than half of the cases. This observation is in agreement with reports in the literature.[46],[47] The mean age of the patients was much lower than values reported by Ozawa et al., who reported a mean age of 55.2 years in an analysis of 43 cases.[48] This disparity may be due to the lower number of cases reviewed in this study. In addition, there was a male preponderance, which is in agreement with reports in the literature.[49] The intermediate histologic grade was observed in patients with a lower age group than patients with low or high grade MEC. This is at variance with reports in literature.[50]

One case of central MEC of high histopathologic grade, affecting the mandible in a 73-year-old male was encountered in this study. Central MEC is a rare lesion which occurs more frequently in males.[51] They are said to represent less than 3% of all MECS reported and are seen primarily in fourth or fifth decades of life.[51] In contrast to the reports that MEC occurs most frequently in the parotids, the maxillary antrum was the site of primary involvement in majority of the cases diagnosed in this study.[48],[52]

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, leiomyosarcoma, and malignant melanoma were also seen, these are rare tumors, especially in the maxillofacial region. Overall, about a third of the cases reviewed were purely of soft tissue origin, this is in contrast to the report of Jaafari-Ashkavandi and Ashraf, who reported soft tissue lesions as 52% of the tumors seen.[5] This contrast may be because of the late presentation by patients in our environment, thereby allowing secondary involvement of soft tissue by a primary intrabony lesion.

  Conclusion Top

Epidemiological data often vary across geographical, racial, and gender divides. The present study shows trends similar to those in existing literature; however, a number of variations from existing reports were also identified. The relatively high proportion of malignancies should be noted and appropriate mechanisms toward prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of disease should be proffered. A nationwide study to determine characteristics of OMMs should be embarked upon and relevant national policies formulated.

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Conflicts of interest

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

This article has been cited by
1 A 5-year audit of major maxillofacial surgeries at Usmanu Danfodiyo university teaching hospital, Nigeria
Adebayo Aremu Ibikunle,Abdurrazaq Olanrewaju Taiwo,Ramat Oyebunmi Braimah
BMC Health Services Research. 2018; 18(1)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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