Pediatric Chest Tumors

Pediatric Chest Tumors



Most malignant tumors of the chest involve the thymus and are classified as thymoma or thymic carcinoma. Many thymomas are benign though other chest tumors exhibit a range of malignant potential.

If you detect a chest mass in a young patient, you will want to turn to pediatric oncologists, pediatric surgeons and other specialists who can manage the complex cancers.  Children’s Health is staffed by expert and experienced specialists who are faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, or Gill Center, is a world-class and nationally recognized leader in pediatric cancer research.

Expanded Overview

Thymus tumors are usually found in the anterior mediastinum. A child may have a cough, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath and chest pain or tightness. Thymic carcinoma is much more likely to invade tissue and metastasize. The cancer has several subtypes and is extremely rare in children. Other tumors of the chest that occur in children include:

  • Neuroblastomas - a common pediatric solid tumor and can occur in the nerve tissue of the chest
  • Rhabdomyosarcomas - rare soft tissue tumors that can arise in the trunk and chest wall
  • Extragonadal germ cell tumors - rare, but often misdiagnosed. They can form along the child’s midline, including the mediastinal area. Extragonadal germ cell tumors - more common in boys than girls and usually occur in young adults. Diagnosing them is difficult, and includes ruling out gonadal origin.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma - may first be noted by swollen lymph nodes in the chest and underarm. It is more common for adolescents and young adults to have mediastinal involvement in Hodgkin lymphoma than for young children.
  • Children and adolescents with non-Hodgkin lymphoma also can have mediastinal involvement. Those who do often have a poorer outcome than adults who have mediastinal signs of disease.

Tests and Diagnosis

Both CT guidance and mediastinoscopy are used for biopsy, which confirms whether a chest tumor is malignant.


Treatment of childhood chest tumors is complex. Malignant thymus tumors usually are treated with resection, including thymus removal, followed by radiation therapy for invasive thymoma and thymic carcinoma.

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