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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:

  • Myasthenia gravis.
  • Polymyositis.
  • Lupus.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Thyroiditis.
  • Isaac syndrome.
  • Pure red cell aplasia.
  • Hyperthyroidism.
  • Addison disease.
  • Panhypopituitarism.

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.

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