Mesothelioma – A Rare but Potential Cancer in Teens

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that aggressively attacks tissue in the body surrounding organs, most commonly found around the lungs. It is most often associated with asbestos exposure, with the average age of a patient diagnosed with mesothelioma being 70. Because of its difficulty to treat and rapidly spreading throughout the body, mesothelioma is a devastating diagnosis. This is especially true in young people.

A Case of Teenage Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is the most commonly known cause of mesothelioma. Most who get this type of cancer have spent years in a workplace with asbestos, either handling it directly or working around it and unknowingly inhaling the fibers. In some instances, the family members of these workers were exposed when the (mostly male) worker brought fibers home on their clothing. This, and other rare causes may lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma in a young person.

One recent case of mesothelioma found in youth involves a 14-year-old girl in the United Kingdom. Macie Greening is one of just a handful of children in the UK to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a type of the disease that affects the lining in the abdominal cavity. After several rounds of chemotherapy which only limited success, Macie is hoping to be enrolled in a clinical trial. No one has been able to determine how she developed this rare disease, but she and her family are hopeful that emerging treatments will help.


High-Tech Treatments for Mesothelioma

It is hoped that Macie can benefit from treatments that are not yet available to everyone, but that are being tested in clinical trials. These new treatments have the potential to help more people, including youth, struggling with this rare and aggressive cancer.

One category of a new, high-tech treatment for mesothelioma involves the manipulation of viruses and genes, to heal the disease through the genes themselves. Viral and genetic therapies use biological technologies to target cancer cells and tumors. For instance, a virus can be altered to weaken or kill specific cancer cells in the body.

Another emerging treatment in gene therapy also involves using viruses. In this approach, researchers alter the DNA of viruses and send them into the patient’s body. There, the viruses insert genetic material into the DNA of cancer cells. These genetic changes may cause the cancer cells to self-destruct or to become easier targets of the body’s immune system.


Tech Tools to Help Teens with Cancer Cope

While technology and research are crucial for giving young cancer patients hope for treatment and remission, these patients also struggle with the side effects of illness: loneliness, missing school, social isolation, and mental health issues. Technological advances could help teens to not only cope better, but avoid many of the negative byproducts of the disease that can be just as devastating.

Some developers have created video games specifically for young cancer patients. These allow patients to virtually attack cancer, which have been in improved survival rates. Another example is a chatbot that provides mental health interventions. These help children and teens with cancers, who are understandably struggling with depression and anxiety.

For younger kids, the insurance company Aflac developed a toy duck based on the company’s mascot. The soft and cuddly duck helps comfort children with cancer. The duck has buttons kids can press to get a snuggle or a comforting quack. It also has emojis to help a child express how he or she feels on a given day. The duck helps kids feel less alone and provides comfort.

Teenagers and children diagnosed with mesothelioma are rare, but they need the best treatment and care. Technology can provide a lot of solutions, ranging from unique treatments to comfort, fun, and mental health support. This is a terrible type of cancer to have, with even more devastating consequences for young people. Parents of these children can look to technology to help them both cope with the disease, as well as survive it.

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