Colorectal carcinoma in children

J Pediatr Surg. 1999 Oct;34(10):1499-504. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(99)90112-4.


Background/purpose: Colorecta I carcinoma is extremely rare in children and presents with a poor prognosis. Surgical management and long-term follow-up of this entity are still obscure because of lack of data. Therefore, a retrospective clinical trial was performed to evaluate the clinical characteristics of childhood colorectal carcinoma and to determine the predictors of poor outcome.

Methods: Records of children who had colorectal carcinoma and were treated at our unit between 1972 and 1997, inclusive, were reviewed retrospectively. Information recorded for each patient included age, sex, clinical characteristics, diagnostic procedures, extent of disease, treatment methods, histological types, and outcome. A modified Dukes staging scheme was used.

Results: There were 12 boys and 8 girls who were treated for colorectal carcinoma (range, 7 to 16 years). Predisposing conditions were encountered in 2 patients (10%), one with Bloom's syndrome and another with familial occurrence of colonic carcinomas. Predominant symptoms were abdominal pain, vomiting, and rectal bleeding. Barium enema, ultrasonography, computerized tomography, and endoscopic procedures were used for the diagnosis. Rectosigmoid region was the most common site for the primary tumor (65%). All patients presented with advanced stages of disease (stage C, 7; stage D, 13). Surgical procedures were incisional biopsy (n = 4), palliative permanent colostomy (n = 4), segmental resection (n = 5), complete resection (n = 6), and rectal biopsy (n = 1). Peritoneum was the most common site of extensive intraabdominal disease followed by omentum majus and liver. The lung also was involved in 2 patients. Predominant histological type was mucinous adenocarcinoma (80%). All patients but one received adjuvant chemotherapy, and 2 received palliative radiotherapy. Thirteen patients died of disease in a period ranging from 1 day to 1 year after initial surgery. The fate of 4 patients who were discharged in a very ill status was unknown. Three patients were alive for 2 years to 4 years postoperatively, and one of them presented with end stage disease.

Conclusions: Delayed diagnosis, advanced stages of disease at presentation, and, most importantly, mucinous type of histology are the major determinants of poor outcome in childhood colorectal carcinoma. We emphasize that possibility of a malignant colorectal tumor should be considered for any childhood case with signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction, intractable abdominal pain, alteration in bowel habits and gastrointestinal bleeding. Colorectal malignancy should not be excluded only on the basis of the patient's age. Because of the steadily increasing incidence of precancerous bowel diseases and poor prognosis of colorectal carcinoma, childhood cases of bowel disorders should receive the same detailed and vigorous diagnostic evaluation and appropriate treatment as given to adult cases. Contrast studies, ultrasonography, computed tomography, and endoscopy are essential procedures for both confirming the diagnosis and detecting the extent of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / mortality*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Colectomy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Colostomy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome