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Cancer Health Center

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Unusual Cancers of Childhood Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Thoracic Cancers

Thoracic cancers include breast cancer, bronchial adenomas, bronchial carcinoid tumors, pleuropulmonary blastoma, esophageal tumors, thymomas, thymic carcinomas, cardiac tumors, and mesothelioma. The prognosis, diagnosis, classification, and treatment of these thoracic cancers are discussed below. It must be emphasized that these cancers are seen very infrequently in patients younger than 15 years, and most of the evidence is derived from case series.[1]

Breast Cancer

Recommended Related to Cancer


Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are found in the NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms. When a linked term is clicked, the definition will appear in a separate window. Creating evidence-based summaries on cancer genetics is challenging because the rapid evolution of new information often results in evidence that is incomplete or of limited quality. In addition, established methods for evaluating the quality of the evidence are available for some, but not all, aspects of...

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The most frequent breast tumor seen in children is a fibroadenoma.[2,3] These tumors can be observed and many will regress without a need for biopsy. However, rare malignant transformation leading to phyllodes tumors has been reported.[4] Sudden rapid enlargement of a suspected fibroadenoma is an indication for needle biopsy or excision. Phyllodes tumors can be managed by wide local excision without mastectomy.[4]

Malignant breast tumors

Incidence, epidemiology, and treatment

Breast cancer has been reported in both males and females younger than 21 years.[5,6,7,8,9,10] A review of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database shows that 75 cases of malignant breast tumors in females 19 years or younger were identified from 1973 to 2004.[11] Fifteen percent of these patients had in situ disease, 85% had invasive disease, 55% of the tumors were carcinomas, and 45% of the tumors were sarcomas-most of which were phyllodes tumors. Only three patients in the carcinoma group presented with metastatic disease, while 11 patients (27%) had regionally advanced disease. All patients with sarcomas presented with localized disease. Of the carcinoma patients, 85% underwent surgical resection, and 10% received adjuvant radiation therapy. Of the sarcoma patients, 97% had surgical resection, and 9% received radiation. The 5- and 10-year survival rates for patients with sarcomatous tumors were both 90%; for patients with carcinomas, the 5-year survival rate was 63% and the 10-year survival rate was 54%.

Treatment of adolescents and young adults

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among adolescent and young adult (AYA) women aged 15 to 39 years, accounting for about 14% of all AYA cancer diagnoses.[12] Breast cancer in this age group has a more aggressive course and worse outcome than in older women. Expression of hormone receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) on breast cancer in the AYA group is also different than in older women and correlates with a worse prognosis.[13] Treatment in the AYA group is similar to that in older women. However, unique aspects of management must include attention to genetic implications (i.e., familial breast cancer syndromes) and fertility.[14]

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