Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

Incidence

More than 90% of tumors and tumor-like lesions in the oral cavity are benign.[1-4] Oral cavity cancer is extremely rare in children and adolescents.[5,6] According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Stat Fact Sheets, only 0.6% of all cases are diagnosed in patients younger than 20 years, and in 2008, the age-adjusted incidence for this population was 0.24 cases per 100,000.

The incidence of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx has increased in adolescent and young adult females, and this pattern is consistent with the national increase in orogenital sexual intercourse in younger females and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.[7] It is currently estimated that the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the United States is 6.9% in people aged 14 to 69 years and that HPV causes about 30,000 oropharyngeal cancers. Furthermore, from 1999 to 2008, the incidence rates for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer increased by 4.4% per year in white men and 1.9% in white women.[8-10] Current practices to increase HPV immunization rates in both boys and girls may reduce the burden of HPV-related cancers.[11,12]

References
  1. Das S, Das AK: A review of pediatric oral biopsies from a surgical pathology service in a dental school. Pediatr Dent 15 (3): 208-11, 1993 May-Jun. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Ulmansky M, Lustmann J, Balkin N: Tumors and tumor-like lesions of the oral cavity and related structures in Israeli children. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 28 (4): 291-4, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Tröbs RB, Mader E, Friedrich T, et al.: Oral tumors and tumor-like lesions in infants and children. Pediatr Surg Int 19 (9-10): 639-45, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Tanaka N, Murata A, Yamaguchi A, et al.: Clinical features and management of oral and maxillofacial tumors in children. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 88 (1): 11-5, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Young JL Jr, Miller RW: Incidence of malignant tumors in U. S. children. J Pediatr 86 (2): 254-8, 1975. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Berstein L, Gurney JG: Carcinomas and other malignant epithelial neoplasms. In: Ries LA, Smith MA, Gurney JG, et al., eds.: Cancer incidence and survival among children and adolescents: United States SEER Program 1975-1995. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, 1999. NIH Pub.No. 99-4649, Chapter 11, pp 139-148. Also available online. Last accessed June 29, 2018.
  7. Bleyer A: Cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx in young females: increasing incidence, role of human papilloma virus, and lack of survival improvement. Semin Oncol 36 (5): 451-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. D'Souza G, Dempsey A: The role of HPV in head and neck cancer and review of the HPV vaccine. Prev Med 53 (Suppl 1): S5-S11, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Gillison ML, Broutian T, Pickard RK, et al.: Prevalence of oral HPV infection in the United States, 2009-2010. JAMA 307 (7): 693-703, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Simard EP, Ward EM, Siegel R, et al.: Cancers with increasing incidence trends in the United States: 1999 through 2008. CA Cancer J Clin 62 (2): 118-28, 2012 Mar-Apr. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Gillison ML, Chaturvedi AK, Lowy DR: HPV prophylactic vaccines and the potential prevention of noncervical cancers in both men and women. Cancer 113 (10 Suppl): 3036-46, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Guo T, Eisele DW, Fakhry C: The potential impact of prophylactic human papillomavirus vaccination on oropharyngeal cancer. Cancer 122 (15): 2313-23, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]

Histology

Benign odontogenic neoplasms of the oral cavity include odontoma and ameloblastoma. The most common nonodontogenic neoplasms of the oral cavity are fibromas, hemangiomas, and papillomas. Tumor-like lesions of the oral cavity include lymphangiomas, granulomas, and Langerhans cell histiocytosis.[1-4] (Refer to the Oral cavity subsection in the PDQ summary on Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Treatment for more information about Langerhans cell histiocytosis of the oral cavity.)

Malignant lesions of the oral cavity were found in 0.1% to 2% of a series of oral biopsies performed in children [1,2] and 3% to 13% of oral tumor biopsies.[3,4] Malignant tumor types include lymphomas (especially Burkitt) and sarcomas (including rhabdomyosarcoma and fibrosarcoma). Mucoepidermoid carcinomas of the oral cavity have rarely been reported in the pediatric and adolescent age group. Most are low or intermediate grade and have a high cure rate with surgery alone.[5]; [6][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]

References
  1. Das S, Das AK: A review of pediatric oral biopsies from a surgical pathology service in a dental school. Pediatr Dent 15 (3): 208-11, 1993 May-Jun. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Ulmansky M, Lustmann J, Balkin N: Tumors and tumor-like lesions of the oral cavity and related structures in Israeli children. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 28 (4): 291-4, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Tröbs RB, Mader E, Friedrich T, et al.: Oral tumors and tumor-like lesions in infants and children. Pediatr Surg Int 19 (9-10): 639-45, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Tanaka N, Murata A, Yamaguchi A, et al.: Clinical features and management of oral and maxillofacial tumors in children. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 88 (1): 11-5, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Morris LG, Ganly I: Outcomes of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma in pediatric patients. Oral Oncol 46 (4): 292-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Perez DE, Pires FR, Alves Fde A, et al.: Juvenile intraoral mucoepidermoid carcinoma. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 66 (2): 308-11, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]

Risk Factors

Diseases that can be associated with the development of oral cavity and/or head and neck squamous cell carcinoma include the following:[1-8]

  • Fanconi anemia.
  • Dyskeratosis congenita.
  • Connexin mutations.
  • Chronic graft-versus-host disease.
  • Epidermolysis bullosa.
  • Xeroderma pigmentosum.
  • Human papillomavirus infection.
References
  1. Oksüzoğlu B, Yalçin S: Squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in a patient with Fanconi's anemia: a case report and review of the literature. Ann Hematol 81 (5): 294-8, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Reinhard H, Peters I, Gottschling S, et al.: Squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in a 13-year-old girl with Fanconi anemia. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 29 (7): 488-91, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Ragin CC, Modugno F, Gollin SM: The epidemiology and risk factors of head and neck cancer: a focus on human papillomavirus. J Dent Res 86 (2): 104-14, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Fine JD, Johnson LB, Weiner M, et al.: Epidermolysis bullosa and the risk of life-threatening cancers: the National EB Registry experience, 1986-2006. J Am Acad Dermatol 60 (2): 203-11, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Kraemer KH, Lee MM, Scotto J: Xeroderma pigmentosum. Cutaneous, ocular, and neurologic abnormalities in 830 published cases. Arch Dermatol 123 (2): 241-50, 1987. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Alter BP: Cancer in Fanconi anemia, 1927-2001. Cancer 97 (2): 425-40, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Mazereeuw-Hautier J, Bitoun E, Chevrant-Breton J, et al.: Keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness syndrome: disease expression and spectrum of connexin 26 (GJB2) mutations in 14 patients. Br J Dermatol 156 (5): 1015-9, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Alter BP, Giri N, Savage SA, et al.: Cancer in dyskeratosis congenita. Blood 113 (26): 6549-57, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]

Outcome

Review of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database identified 54 patients younger than 20 years with oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) between 1973 and 2006. Pediatric patients with oral cavity SCC were more often female and had better survival than adult patients. When differences in patient, tumor, and treatment-related characteristics are adjusted for, the two groups experienced equivalent survival.[1][Level of evidence: 3iA] A retrospective study of the National Cancer Database identified 159 patients younger than 20 years with SCC of the head and neck. Of these tumors, 55% originated in the oral cavity, and patients with laryngeal tumors had a better survival rate than did those who presented with oral cavity primary tumors.[2]

References
  1. Morris LG, Ganly I: Outcomes of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma in pediatric patients. Oral Oncol 46 (4): 292-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Modh A, Gayar OH, Elshaikh MA, et al.: Pediatric head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: Patient demographics, treatment trends and outcomes. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 106: 21-25, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer

Treatment of benign oral cavity tumors is surgical.

Treatment options for childhood oral cavity cancer include the following:

  1. Surgery.
  2. Chemotherapy.
  3. Radiation therapy.

Management of malignant tumors of the oral cavity is dependent on histology and may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.[1] Most reported cases of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma managed with surgery alone have done well without recurrence.[2,3] (Refer to the PDQ summary on Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment [Adult] for more information.)

Langerhans cell histiocytosis of the oral cavity may require treatment in addition to surgery. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Treatment for more information.)

References
  1. Sturgis EM, Moore BA, Glisson BS, et al.: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue in young adults: a case series. Head Neck 27 (9): 748-56, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Woo VL, Kelsch RD, Su L, et al.: Gingival squamous cell carcinoma in adolescence. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 107 (1): 92-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Morris LG, Ganly I: Outcomes of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma in pediatric patients. Oral Oncol 46 (4): 292-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • APEC1621 (NCT03155620) (Pediatric MATCH: Targeted Therapy Directed by Genetic Testing in Treating Pediatric Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Advanced Solid Tumors, Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, or Histiocytic Disorders): NCI-COG Pediatric Molecular Analysis for Therapeutic Choice (MATCH), referred to as Pediatric MATCH, will match targeted agents with specific molecular changes identified using a next-generation sequencing targeted assay of more than 3,000 different mutations across more than 160 genes in refractory and recurrent solid tumors. Children and adolescents aged 1 to 21 years are eligible for the trial.

    Tumor tissue from progressive or recurrent disease must be available for molecular characterization. Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the ClinicalTrials.gov website for APEC1621 (NCT03155620).

Special Considerations for the Treatment of Children With Cancer

Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975.[1] Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered for children and adolescents with cancer. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life:

  • Primary care physicians.
  • Pediatric surgeons.
  • Radiation oncologists.
  • Pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists.
  • Rehabilitation specialists.
  • Pediatric nurse specialists.
  • Social workers.
  • Child-life professionals.
  • Psychologists.

(Refer to the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care summaries for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)

Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients and their families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapy for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%.[3] Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)

Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years.[4] The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 persons. Therefore, all pediatric cancers are considered rare.

The designation of a rare tumor is not uniform among pediatric and adult groups. Adult rare cancers are defined as those with an annual incidence of fewer than six cases per 100,000 people, and they are estimated to account for up to 24% of all cancers diagnosed in the European Union and about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States.[5,6] Also, the designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:

  • The Italian cooperative project on rare pediatric tumors (Tumori Rari in Eta Pediatrica [TREP]) defines a pediatric rare tumor as one with an incidence of less than two cases per 1 million population per year and is not included in other clinical trials.[7]
  • The Children's Oncology Group has opted to define rare pediatric cancers as those listed in the International Classification of Childhood Cancer subgroup XI, which includes thyroid cancer, melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, and multiple types of carcinomas (e.g., adrenocortical carcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and most adult-type carcinomas such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, etc.).[8] These diagnoses account for about 4% of cancers diagnosed in children aged 0 to 14 years, compared with about 20% of cancers diagnosed in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.[9]

    Most cancers within subgroup XI are either melanomas or thyroid cancer, with the remaining subgroup XI cancer types accounting for only 1.3% of cancers in children aged 0 to 14 years and 5.3% of cancers in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.

These rare cancers are extremely challenging to study because of the low incidence of patients with any individual diagnosis, the predominance of rare cancers in the adolescent population, and the lack of clinical trials for adolescents with rare cancers.

Information about these tumors may also be found in sources relevant to adults with cancer such as the PDQ summary on Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (Adult).

References
  1. Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al.: Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15): 2625-34, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Corrigan JJ, Feig SA; American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers. Pediatrics 113 (6): 1833-5, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Smith MA, Altekruse SF, Adamson PC, et al.: Declining childhood and adolescent cancer mortality. Cancer 120 (16): 2497-506, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Ward E, DeSantis C, Robbins A, et al.: Childhood and adolescent cancer statistics, 2014. CA Cancer J Clin 64 (2): 83-103, 2014 Mar-Apr. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Gatta G, Capocaccia R, Botta L, et al.: Burden and centralised treatment in Europe of rare tumours: results of RARECAREnet-a population-based study. Lancet Oncol 18 (8): 1022-1039, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. DeSantis CE, Kramer JL, Jemal A: The burden of rare cancers in the United States. CA Cancer J Clin 67 (4): 261-272, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Ferrari A, Bisogno G, De Salvo GL, et al.: The challenge of very rare tumours in childhood: the Italian TREP project. Eur J Cancer 43 (4): 654-9, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Pappo AS, Krailo M, Chen Z, et al.: Infrequent tumor initiative of the Children's Oncology Group: initial lessons learned and their impact on future plans. J Clin Oncol 28 (33): 5011-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2012. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, 2015. Also available online. Last accessed August 13, 2018.

Changes to This Summary (09/21/2018)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

This summary was comprehensively reviewed and reformatted.

Outcome

Added text to state that a retrospective study of the National Cancer Database identified 159 patients younger than 20 years with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Of these tumors, 55% originated in the oral cavity, and patients with laryngeal tumors had a better survival rate than did those who presented with oral cavity primary tumors (cited Modh et al. as reference 2).

This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of childhood oral cavity cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Reviewers and Updates

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

  • be discussed at a meeting,
  • be cited with text, or
  • replace or update an existing article that is already cited.

Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.

The lead reviewers for Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment are:

  • Denise Adams, MD (Children's Hospital Boston)
  • Karen J. Marcus, MD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children's Hospital)
  • Paul A. Meyers, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
  • Thomas A. Olson, MD (Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - Egleston Campus)
  • Alberto S. Pappo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
  • R Beverly Raney, MD (Consultant)
  • Arthur Kim Ritchey, MD (Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC)
  • Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
  • Stephen J. Shochat, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)

Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the NCI website's Email Us. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.

Levels of Evidence

Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.

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The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/child/oral-cavity-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389315]

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Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either “standard” or “under clinical evaluation.” These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.

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  • Updated: September 21, 2018

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