Purpose of review: Although head and neck masses represent a common entity in children, malignancy is uncommon. The otolaryngologist may be the first physician to see these children, and early recognition of malignancy is of obvious importance. This review aims to discuss the cause, diagnosis, investigation, treatment options, and prognosis for the most common head and neck malignancies of childhood.
Recent findings: Over recent years, significant developments have been made in characterizing the epidemiologic, phenotypic, and genotypic variability of childhood head and neck cancers. Improved awareness of tumor biology is reflected by more sophisticated diagnostics, estimates of prognosis, and an increasing individualization of treatment regimens.
Summary: The latest evidence for the diagnosis and management of childhood head and neck malignancy is summarized. The rarity of these tumors inevitably results in a paucity of high-level evidence to guide treatment. A combination of translational research from tumor biology studies, multicenter clinical trials, and smaller case series and case reports will continue to guide new advances in diagnosis and treatment.