National Cancer Institute
Post Date: Jul 19, 2022
This evidence-based, expert-reviewed summary discusses the risk factors, clinical presentation, outcomes, and treatment of pediatric cervical and vaginal cancer.
Childhood Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Treatment
Risk Factors and Clinical Presentation
Adenocarcinoma of the cervix and vagina is rare in childhood and adolescence. Two-thirds of cases in previous reports have been associated with exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero. However, the few case reports of vaginal cancer in children in the last decade have not been associated with exposure to DES in utero.
The median age at presentation is 15 years, with a range of 7 months to 18 years. Most patients present with vaginal bleeding. Adults with adenocarcinoma of the cervix or vagina will present with stage I or stage II disease 90% of the time. In children and adolescents, there is a high incidence of stage III and stage IV disease (24%). This difference may be explained by the practice of routine pelvic examinations in adults and the hesitancy to perform pelvic exams in children.
- McNall RY, Nowicki PD, Miller B, et al.: Adenocarcinoma of the cervix and vagina in pediatric patients. Pediatr Blood Cancer 43 (3): 289-94, 2004.
- You W, Dainty LA, Rose GS, et al.: Gynecologic malignancies in women aged less than 25 years. Obstet Gynecol 105 (6): 1405-9, 2005.
- Huo D, Anderson D, Palmer JR, et al.: Incidence rates and risks of diethylstilbestrol-related clear-cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina and cervix: Update after 40-year follow-up. Gynecol Oncol 146 (3): 566-571, 2017.
- Fernandez-Pineda I, Spunt SL, Parida L, et al.: Vaginal tumors in childhood: the experience of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. J Pediatr Surg 46 (11): 2071-5, 2011.
Treatment and Outcome of Childhood Cervical and Vaginal Cancer
Treatment options for childhood carcinoma of the cervix and vagina include the following:
- Radiation therapy, for residual microscopic disease or lymphatic metastases.
The treatment of choice is surgical resection, followed by radiation therapy for residual microscopic disease or lymphatic metastases. The role of chemotherapy in management is unknown, although drugs commonly used in the treatment of gynecological malignancies, such as carboplatin and paclitaxel, have been used.
In a retrospective report, 37 patients with cervical clear cell adenocarcinoma or cervical mesonephric adenocarcinoma were treated with various modalities (surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy). The 3-year event-free survival rate was 71% (± 11%) for patients with all stages of tumors, 82% (± 11%) for patients with stage I and stage II tumors, and 57% (± 22%) for patients with stage III and stage IV tumors.
- Abu-Rustum NR, Su W, Levine DA, et al.: Pediatric radical abdominal trachelectomy for cervical clear cell carcinoma: a novel surgical approach. Gynecol Oncol 97 (1): 296-300, 2005.
- Baykara M, Benekli M, Erdem O, et al.: Clear cell adenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix: a case report and review of the literature. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 36 (2): e131-3, 2014.
- McNall RY, Nowicki PD, Miller B, et al.: Adenocarcinoma of the cervix and vagina in pediatric patients. Pediatr Blood Cancer 43 (3): 289-94, 2004.
Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood Cervical and Vaginal 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, see 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 in a patient's tumor (refractory or recurrent). Children and adolescents aged 1 to 21 years are eligible for the trial.
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 NCI website and ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Special Considerations for the Treatment of Children With Cancer
Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence has been slowly increasing since 1975. Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered. 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.
- Fertility specialists.
For information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer, see the summaries on Supportive and Palliative Care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer. 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 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 current standard therapy. 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%. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because side effects of cancer therapy may persist or develop months or years after treatment. For information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors, see Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer.
Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years. The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 people. Therefore, all pediatric cancers are considered rare.
The designation of a rare tumor is not uniform among pediatric and adult groups. In adults, rare cancers are defined as those with an annual incidence of fewer than six cases per 100,000 people. They account for up to 24% of all cancers diagnosed in the European Union and about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. Also, the designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:
- A consensus effort between the European Union Joint Action on Rare Cancers and the European Cooperative Study Group for Rare Pediatric Cancers estimated that 11% of all cancers in patients younger than 20 years could be categorized as very rare. This consensus group defined very rare cancers as those with annual incidences of fewer than 2 cases per 1 million people. However, three additional histologies (thyroid carcinoma, melanoma, and testicular cancer) with incidences of more than 2 cases per 1 million people were also included in the very rare group because there is a lack of knowledge and expertise in the management of these tumors.
- The Children's Oncology Group defines 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.). 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.
Most cancers in subgroup XI are either melanomas or thyroid cancer, with other 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 number 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 Cervical Cancer Treatment and Vaginal Cancer Treatment.
- 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.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Standards for pediatric cancer centers. Pediatrics 134 (2): 410-4, 2014. Also available online. Last accessed June 7, 2022.
- Smith MA, Altekruse SF, Adamson PC, et al.: Declining childhood and adolescent cancer mortality. Cancer 120 (16): 2497-506, 2014.
- 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.
- 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.
- DeSantis CE, Kramer JL, Jemal A: The burden of rare cancers in the United States. CA Cancer J Clin 67 (4): 261-272, 2017.
- Ferrari A, Brecht IB, Gatta G, et al.: Defining and listing very rare cancers of paediatric age: consensus of the Joint Action on Rare Cancers in cooperation with the European Cooperative Study Group for Pediatric Rare Tumors. Eur J Cancer 110: 120-126, 2019.
- 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.
- Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2012. National Cancer Institute, 2015. Also available online. Last accessed May 25, 2022.
Changes to This Summary (07/20/2022)
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 reformatted.
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 pediatric cervical and vaginal cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians in the care of their 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 Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Treatment are:
- Denise Adams, MD (Children's Hospital Boston)
- Karen J. Marcus, MD, FACR (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)
- 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
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PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated
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