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Malignant Mesothelioma - Child

To view this article in the new Rare Cancers Australia Knowledgebase, click here 

Definition of malignant mesothelioma:

A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. 

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

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain under the rib cage.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.

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

Tests to diagnose and stage mesothelioma may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • CT scan.
  • PET scan.
  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy.

Other tests used to diagnose mesothelioma include the following:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Thoracotomy: An incision (cut) is made between two ribs to check inside the chest for signs of disease.
  • 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.

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:

  • Surgery to remove the part of the chest lining with cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy, as palliative therapy, to relieve pain and improve quality of life.

See the summary on Malignant Mesothelioma in the A-Z List of Cancers for more information here

For more information on Childhood Malignant Mesothelioma click here

This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.

For information about clinical trials that are available in Australia click here  

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