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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Unusual Cancers of the Chest



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


Treatment for esophageal cancer in children may include the following:

  • Surgery to remove all or part of the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy given through a plastic or metal tube placed through the mouth into the esophagus.
  • Chemotherapy.

See the PDQ summary on adult Esophageal Cancer for more information.

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.

Anatomy of the thymus gland. The thymus gland is a small organ that lies in the upper chest under the breastbone. It makes white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which protect the body against infections.

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 child's doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

  • Coughing.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Pain or a tight feeling in the chest.
  • Trouble breathing.

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

Tests to diagnose and stage thymoma and thymic carcinoma may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • CT scan.
  • PET scan.
  • MRI.
  • Biopsy.

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


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


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

  • Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy for tumors that have spread.
  • Chemotherapy.

Heart Tumors

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

  • Rhabdomyoma: A tumor that forms in muscle made up of long fibers.
  • Fibroma: A tumor that forms in fiber-like tissue that holds bones, muscles, and other organs in place.
  • Myxoma: A tumor that may be part of an inherited syndrome called Carney complex. (See the Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndromes section for more information.)
  • Histiocytoid cardiomyopathy tumor: A tumor that forms in the heart cells that control heart rhythm.
  • Teratomas: A type of germ cell tumor. In the heart, these tumors form most often in the pericardium (the sac that covers the heart). Some teratomas are malignant (cancer).
  • Hemangiomas: A tumor that forms in the cells that line blood vessels.
  • Neurofibroma: A tumor that forms in the cells and tissues that cover nerves.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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