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Desmoid tumors of the head and neck in the pediatric population: Has anything changed?

INTRODUCTION: Pediatric head and neck desmoid tumors are rare neoplasms that can cause significant morbidity due to infiltration of vital anatomic structures. The goal of this study is to review presentation, evaluation, and management of these tumors.

METHODS: Retrospective study of children with head and neck desmoid tumors treated from 1999 to 2018 and literature review.

RESULTS: 11 patients (5 boys, 6 girls) were included. Presentation included firm neck mass (n = 8), trismus (n = 2) and tongue lesion (n = 1). All patients had preoperative imaging with CT (n = 2), MRI (n = 1) or both (n = 8). Five patients underwent needle biopsy, five had open biopsy and one was diagnosed on pathology from primary excision. Seven patients were treated by primary surgical resection, with positive surgical margins in six cases due to proximity to vital neurovascular structures. None needed chemotherapy, had disease recurrence or progression. Three patients with unresectable disease were treated with chemotherapy. One patient was monitored with imaging without any treatment and did not have disease progression. Follow-up ranged from 6 months to 6 years (median 21 months). Ten patients (7 surgical, 2 chemotherapy, 1 observation) were either disease-free or had stable disease at last follow-up.

CONCLUSION: Pediatric head and neck desmoid tumors, though rare and histologically benign, are locally infiltrative and aggressive. When feasible, surgical treatment results in good disease control despite positive margins. A balance between achieving negative margins and minimizing functional deficits should be considered. Chemotherapy can be successfully utilized in patients where surgery entails a high risk of morbidity and mortality.

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