A Part of the University of Maryland Medical Center

Connect with UMGCC
Facebook Twitter YouTube Blog iPhone
Email PageEmail page Print PagePrint page

Unusual Cancers of Childhood

Unusual Cancers of the Chest

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. Breast cancer may form in both male and female children.

Most breast tumors in children are fibroadenomas, which are benign (not cancer). Rarely, these tumors become large phyllodes tumors (cancer) and begin to grow quickly. If a benign tumor begins to grow quickly, a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy or an excisional biopsy will be done. The tissues removed during the biopsy will be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

The risk of breast cancer is increased by the following:

Breast cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Other conditions that are not breast cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests that examine the breast are used to diagnose and stage breast cancer. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Another test used to diagnose breast cancer is the mammogram (an x-ray of the breast). When treatment for another cancer included radiation therapy to the breast or chest, it is important to have a mammogram to check for breast cancer beginning at age 25, or 10 years after finishing radiation therapy, whichever is later.

Treatment

Treatment of breast cancer in children may include the following:

See the PDQ summary on adult Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.

Bronchial Tumors

Bronchial tumors begin in the cells that line the surface of the lung. Most bronchial tumors in children are benign, slow-growing tumors in the trachea or large bronchi, which are the large airways of the lung. Sometimes, a slow-growing bronchial tumor becomes cancer that may spread to other parts of the body.


Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the bloodstream (see inset).
Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the bloodstream (see inset).

Symptoms and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

Bronchial tumors may cause any of the following signs and symptoms:

Other conditions that are not bronchial tumors may cause these same symptoms. For example, symptoms of bronchial tumors are a lot like the symptoms of asthma, and that can make it hard to diagnose the tumor.

Tests that examine the bronchi and lungs are used to diagnose and stage bronchial tumors. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

A biopsy of the abnormal area is usually not done because it can cause severe bleeding.

Other tests used to diagnose bronchial tumors include the following:

Prognosis

Bronchial cancer in children can usually be cured, even when it has spread to nearby areas. The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on how the cells look under a microscope and the stage of the cancer.

Treatment

Treatment of bronchial tumors in children may include the following:

Pleuropulmonary Blastoma

Pleuropulmonary blastomas (PPBs) form in the tissue of the lung and pleura (tissue that covers the lungs and lines the inside of the chest). PPBs can also form in the organs between the lungs including the heart, aorta, and pulmonary artery, or in the diaphragm (the main breathing muscle below the lungs).

There are three stages of PPB that are described as types:

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

The risk of PPB is increased by the following:

PPB may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Other conditions that are not PPB may cause these same symptoms.

Tests that examine the lungs and the lining around the lungs are used to diagnose and stage PPB. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Other tests used to diagnose PPB include the following:

PPBs may spread or recur (come back) even after being removed by surgery.

Treatment

Treatment of pleuropulmonary blastomas in children is usually surgery to remove the whole lobe of the lung the tumor is in, with or without chemotherapy.

Esophageal Tumors

Esophageal tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the esophagus. The esophagus is the hollow, muscular tube that moves food and liquid from the throat to the stomach. Most esophageal tumors in children begin in the thin, flat cells that line the esophagus.


The stomach and esophagus are part of the upper digestive system.
The stomach and esophagus are part of the upper digestive system.

Symptoms and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

Esophageal cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Other conditions that are not esophageal cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests that examine the esophagus are used to diagnose and stage esophageal cancer. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Other tests used to diagnose esophageal cancer include the following:

Prognosis

Esophageal cancer is hard to cure because it usually is not possible to remove the whole tumor by surgery.

Treatment

Treatment for esophageal cancer in children may include the following:

Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma

Thymomas and thymic carcinomas are tumors of the cells that cover the outside surface of the thymus. The thymus is a small organ in the upper chest under the breastbone. It is part of the lymph system and makes white blood cells, called lymphocytes, that help fight infection. Thymomas and thymic carcinomas usually form in the front part of the chest and are often found during a chest x-ray that is done for another reason.

Thymoma and thymic carcinoma are slow-growing cancers that may spread to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

People who develop thymomas often have one of the following immune system diseases or hormone disorders:

Thymoma and thymic carcinoma may cause any of the following symptoms Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Other conditions that are not thymoma and thymic carcinoma may cause these same symptoms.

Tests that examine the cells that cover the thymus are used to diagnose and stage thymoma and thymic carcinoma. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Prognosis

The prognosis (chance of recovery) is better when the tumor has not spread.

Treatment

Treatment for thymomas and thymic carcinoma in children may include the following:

Heart Tumors

Most tumors that form in the heart are benign (not cancer). Benign heart tumors that may appear in children include the following:

In children, the most common benign heart tumors are rhabdomyomas and fibromas. Before birth and in newborns, the most common benign heart tumors are teratomas. An inherited disorder called tuberous sclerosis can cause heart tumors to form in a fetus or newborn.

Malignant tumors that begin in the heart are even more rare than benign tumors in children. Some of these include:

Some cancers, such as rhabdomyosarcoma, melanoma, and leukemia, spread to the heart from other parts of the body. These tumors are malignant.

Symptoms

Heart tumors may cause any of the following symptoms. Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Heart tumors sometimes cause sudden death without causing any symptoms.

Other conditions that are not heart tumors may cause these same symptoms. Sometimes heart tumors do not cause any symptoms at all.

Tests that examine the cells of the heart are used to diagnose and stage heart tumors. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Other tests used to diagnose or stage heart tumors include the following:

Treatment

Treatment for heart tumors in children may include the following:

Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs) or the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). The tumors often spread over the surface of organs without spreading into the organ. They may spread to lymph nodes nearby or in other parts of the body.

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

Mesothelioma is sometimes a late effect of treatment for an earlier cancer, especially after treatment with radiation therapy. In adults, mesothelioma has been linked to being exposed to asbestos, which was once used as building insulation. There is no information about the risk of mesothelioma in children exposed to asbestos.

Mesothelioma may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your doctor if any of the following problems occur:

Other conditions that are not mesothelioma may cause these same symptoms.

Tests that examine the pleura are used to diagnose and stage mesothelioma. They may include:

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

Other tests used to diagnose mesothelioma include the following:

Prognosis

The prognosis (chance of recovery) is better when the tumor has not spread or come back after treatment.

Treatment

Treatment for mesothelioma in children may include one or more of the following:

See the PDQ summary on adult Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment for more information.