National Cancer Institute
Post Date: Feb 17, 2021
Childhood mesothelioma treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Learn more about the risk factors, symptoms, tests to diagnose, and treatment of childhood mesothelioma in this expert-reviewed summary.
Childhood Mesothelioma Treatment
General Information About Childhood Mesothelioma
Key Points for this Section
- Mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the thin layer of tissue that covers organs in the chest or abdomen.
- Treatment with radiation therapy increases the risk of childhood mesothelioma.
- Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include trouble breathing and pain in the chest or abdomen.
- Tests that examine the chest, abdomen, and heart are used to diagnose mesothelioma.
- Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).
Mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the thin layer of tissue that covers organs in the chest or abdomen.
- Pleura: A thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs.
- Peritoneum: A thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen.
- Pericardium: A thin layer of tissue that surrounds the heart.
The tumors often spread over the surface of organs without spreading into the organ. They may spread to nearby lymph nodes or in other parts of the body. Malignant mesothelioma may also form in the testicles, but this is rare.
Malignant mesothelioma forms in the tissue that lines the chest or abdomen, including the pleura (the tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs), the pericardium (the tissue that surrounds the heart), and the peritoneum (the tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). Malignant mesothelioma may also form in the testicles, but this is rare.
Treatment with radiation therapy increases the risk of childhood mesothelioma.
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk.
In adults, mesothelioma is strongly linked to being exposed to asbestos, which has been used in the building and textile industries. In children, there is little information about the risk of developing mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include trouble breathing and pain in the chest or abdomen.
Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
- Trouble breathing.
- Cough for no known reason.
- Pain under the rib cage or pain in the chest and abdomen.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Feeling very tired.
Tests that examine the chest, abdomen, and heart are used to diagnose mesothelioma.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
- Physical exam and health history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. The child lies on a table that slides through the PET scanner. The head rest and white strap help the child lie still. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into the child's vein, and a scanner makes a picture of where the glucose is being used in the body. Cancer cells show up brighter in the picture because they take up more glucose than normal cells do.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
- Pulmonary function test (PFT): A test to see how well the lungs are working. It measures how much air the lungs can hold and how quickly air moves into and out of the lungs. It also measures how much oxygen is used and how much carbon dioxide is given off during breathing. This is also called a lung function test.
- Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy: The removal of tissue or fluid using a thin needle. A pathologist views the tissue or fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- Thoracoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the chest to check for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made between two ribs and a thoracoscope is inserted into the chest. A thoracoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. In some cases, this procedure is used to remove part of the esophagus or lung.
- Bronchoscopy: A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to check for abnormal areas. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the abdomen and a laparoscope (thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Cytologic exam: An exam of cells under a microscope (by a pathologist) to check for anything abnormal. For mesothelioma, fluid is taken from around the lungs or from the abdomen. A pathologist checks the cells in the fluid.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).
Prognosis depends on whether the cancer:
- has spread throughout the thin layer of tissue or into organs.
- has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).
Stages of Childhood Mesothelioma
The process used to find out if cancer has spread from where it first began is called staging. In childhood mesothelioma, cancer may spread to nearby or distant lymph nodes. There is no standard staging system for childhood mesothelioma. The results of tests and procedures done to diagnose mesothelioma are used to help make decisions about treatment.
Sometimes childhood mesothelioma recurs (comes back) after it has been treated.
Treatment Option Overview
Key Points for this Section
- There are different types of treatment for children with mesothelioma.
- Children with mesothelioma should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors who are experts in treating childhood cancer.
- Three types of treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
- New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
- Targeted therapy
- Treatment for childhood mesothelioma may cause side effects.
- Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
- Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
- Follow-up tests may be needed.
There are different types of treatment for children with mesothelioma.
Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Children with mesothelioma should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors who are experts in treating childhood cancer.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health professionals who are experts in treating children with cancer and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. This may include the following specialists and others:
- Pediatric surgeon.
- Radiation oncologist.
- Pediatric nurse specialist.
- Social worker.
- Rehabilitation specialist.
- Child-life specialist.
Three types of treatment are used:
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the area of the body with cancer.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do.
Targeted therapy is being studied for the treatment of childhood mesothelioma that has recurred (come back).
Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This cancer treatment is a type of biologic therapy.
Treatment for childhood mesothelioma may cause side effects.
Side effects from cancer treatment that begin after treatment and continue for months or years are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include:
- Physical problems.
- Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory.
- Second cancers (new types of cancer) or other conditions.
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the possible late effects caused by some treatments.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI’s clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.malignant mesothelioma
Treatment of Childhood Mesothelioma
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
- Surgery to remove the part of the chest lining with cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it.
- Radiation therapy, as palliative therapy, to relieve pain and improve quality of life.
- Clinical trials of newer drugs and immunotherapy.
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.recurrent malignant mesothelioma
Treatment of Recurrent Childhood Mesothelioma
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
- A clinical trial that checks a sample of the patient's tumor for certain gene changes. The type of targeted therapy that will be given to the patient depends on the type of gene change.
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.
To Learn More About Childhood Mesothelioma
- Malignant Mesothelioma Home Page
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scans and Cancer
- Targeted Cancer Therapies
- Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
- About Cancer
- Childhood Cancers
- CureSearch for Children's Cancer
- Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer
- Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer
- Children with Cancer: A Guide for Parents
- Cancer in Children and Adolescents
- Coping with Cancer
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Cancer
- For Survivors and Caregivers
About This PDQ Summary
Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
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This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of childhood mesothelioma. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
Reviewers and Updates
Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Updated") is the date of the most recent change.
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Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
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PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Mesothelioma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated
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