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Primary radical radiotherapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the middle ear and external auditory cana--an historical series.AIMS: To evaluate patients treated with radical radiotherapy alone for squamous cell carcinoma of the middle ear (MEC) and external auditory canal (EAC) in terms of freedom from local recurrence, cancer-specific survival and morbidity. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Between 1965 and 1988, 123 patients were treated, 70 with MEC and 53 with EAC. The median age was 64 years (range 21-86) and 78% presented as late stage. The median dose was 55 Gy (range 39-55) in 16 once daily fractions (range 13-21). RESULTS: At 5 and 10 years, respectively, freedom from local recurrence was 56 and 56%, disease-free survival was 45 and 43%, cancer-specific survival was 53 and 51%, and overall survival was 40 and 21%. Cancer-specific survival was significantly worse with late stage as opposed to early stage (P = 0.0026), as was local recurrence (P = 0.0088). No differences in survival and local control were seen according to site. Radionecrosis developed in 6% of patients. CONCLUSIONS: Combined treatment using radiotherapy and radical surgery is often favoured. This large series shows that radical radiotherapy achieves comparable results in terms of local control and cancer-specific survival. Our radiotherapy regimen is now 55 Gy in 20 daily fractions to reduce late morbidity. Radiotherapy alone remains a viable option, especially as morbidity can be minimised and target volume delineation optimised using computer planning in the future.