Introduction: Primary carcinomas of the trachea are rare tumors, occurring at a rate of 2.6 new cases per 1,000,000 people per year. This study investigates the large observational cohort of patients recorded in the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) 1973-2004 database, and provides information regarding epidemiology, treatment, and prognosis.
Methods: The SEER database was investigated, and all patients for whom primary tracheal carcinoma was the first and only cancer were investigated. Demographic information was investigated. The cohort was analyzed for variables effecting survival, including age, gender, race, histology, extent of disease, extent of surgery, use of radiation, and year of diagnosis.
Results: Between 1973 and 2004, 578 cases of primary tracheal carcinomas were reported in the SEER database. There were 322 men (55.7%) and 256 women (44.3%). Squamous cell carcinoma was the predominant histology, representing 259 tumors (44.8%). Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) was the second most common tumor (16.3%). Localized, regional and distant disease was found in 140 (24.2%), 212 (36.7%), and 108 (18.7%), respectively. Twenty percent of the patients did not undergo staging. Patients with localized disease had a better prognosis than those with regional (P = 0.001) or distant disease (P = <0.001).A significant fraction of patients did not receive cancer directed local therapy; 34.3% did not undergo surgery and 29.1% did not receive any kind of radiation therapy. There was a statistically significant improved survival for patients who underwent any type of surgery in comparison with patients who did not undergo cancer directed surgery. There was no statistical benefit for patients who underwent radiation therapy.General overall 5-year survival for all patients was 27.1% (95% CI: 23.1-33.3%). Patients with localized disease had a better outcome than patients with regional or distant disease with an overall 5-year survival of 46% (95% CI: 37.3%-55.8%). Squamous cell carcinoma tumors had worse outcomes than any other histologic type, with a 5 year overall survival of 12.6% (95% CI: 8.4-17.6%). In contrast, 5-year overall survival for AACs was relatively good at 74.3% (95% CI: 63.1-82.5). For localized disease, 5-year survival was 24.7% (95% CI: 12.8-38.7%) for squamous cell carcinoma versus 90.5% (95% CI: 73.3-96.8%) for ACCs (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Primary tracheal tumors are very uncommon; squamous cell carcinoma is the most common histologic type, followed by ACCs. General 5-year overall survival is poor, though localized disease has better survival when compared with regional or distant disease. There is a remarkable difference in survival between squamous cell carcinoma and ACC.