Pediatric non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a type of lung cancer that affects children and adolescents. It can be treated using methods such as surgery and chemotherapy.
Pediatric NSCLC is rare, and researchers are working to understand the condition in more detail. Doctors can successfully treat some forms of NSCLC in children with a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
This article covers pediatric NSCLC, its symptoms, and risk factors. It also looks at treatment options and outlook.
Pediatric NSCLC is the term doctors use when NSCLC develops in children and adolescents. It is rare for this cancer to develop in anyone under the age of 40 and even more rarely in children and adolescents.
NSCLC is an umbrella term that encompasses several types of lung cancer, including:
The NSCLC that develops in young people is typically ALK positive. This is where a mutation on the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene causes lung cancer. It usually occurs in people without a history of smoking.
Pediatric NSCLC is rare and doctors are still trying to clearly identify the signs and symptoms. The disease can cause symptoms similar to NSCLC in adults.
Symptoms can start with a chronic cough that persists without responding to treatment. It can also cause chest pain when coughing or when the person takes a deep breath. Other symptoms may include:
People may also experience persistent lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
NSCLC can metastasize, where it can spread to other parts of the body and cause additional symptoms.
Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lungs begin to divide uncontrollably and form tumors that damage healthy tissue. Doctors are unclear about the exact cause of NSCLC in children and why some children develop it and others do not.
Research suggests that genetic mutations may increase the risk of lung cancer. Experts also believe that multiple hereditary and environmental factors may play a role in developing NSCLC in a child.
Smoking is the main risk factor for NSCLC in adults. This is because smoking can alter the genes responsible for suppressing tumors. These changes allow cells to multiply uncontrollably and cause tumors.
However, children and adolescents are unlikely to have a long history of smoking, and there are likely other unknown risk factors for NSCLC in children.
Experts estimate that smoking causes 90% of lung cancers. Other risks for NSCLC in adults include:
a family history of lung cancer exposure to environmental toxins, such as radon, asbestos, and arsenic regular exposure to secondhand smoke exposure to certain pollutants, such as from a car exhaust
NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 85% of new lung cancer cases in the United States each year. Most of these cases are in people over the age of 45 and the risks to children and adolescents are still unclear.
Children and adolescents with childhood NSCLC receive care from a team of pediatric oncologists who diagnose and treat cancer in youth.
The treatment protocol depends on:
disease stage tumor size cancer subtype specific symptoms child age and general health
Treatment options for pediatric NSCLC include:
Surgery: A surgeon may be able to remove the tumor if the cancer has not spread to the child’s lymph nodes.Chemotherapy: This treatment kills rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells and healthy cells. Doctors may use chemotherapy in combination with surgery or other therapies.radiation: This therapy uses concentrated, high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.Targeted Therapies: These therapies target and kill specific types of cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
Doctors may recommend that the child enter a clinical trial for a new therapy if other treatments do not work.
The outlook is generally poor for anyone with pediatric NSCLC that has metastasized.
However, a 2021 review using data from the German Registry of Rare Pediatric Tumors found that some people with pediatric NSCLC can achieve remission.
The researchers identified 12 children and adolescents with pediatric NSCLC in 10 years of data. The cancer had not spread in seven cases, and doctors successfully removed the tumors. Two children died and three went into remission after multiple forms of treatment.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a difficult time for the child and his family.
The National Cancer Institute has a guide for parents of children with cancer. It covers explaining cancer, helping a child cope with their emotions, and practical tips for finding support. There is also a guide for teens with a sibling with cancer.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization provides information, advocacy, and support for children with cancer and their families. It also offers online support groups and face-to-face meetings in some areas.
CancerCare provides free, professional support to children and their caregivers to help them overcome emotional and practical challenges. The organization also offers telephone counseling to oncology social workers, educational workshops, and financial aid.
Pediatric NSCLC is a rare form of lung cancer in children and adolescents. Scientists and doctors are still working to understand the condition and its causes.
Doctors can use surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to treat NSCLC in children. In addition, clinical trials are underway to identify new forms of treatment for pediatric NSCLC. The outlook for this condition is generally poor if the cancer has spread.