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Lung Tumors

A lung tumor is a tumor that occurs in the lung tissue or in the airways that lead to the lungs.

Lung tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). When removed, benign tumors usually do not grow back. Malignant tumors sometimes do grow back and may spread to other parts of your body (metastasize).

If your lung tumor is three centimeters or less in diameter, it’s called a pulmonary nodule. Pulmonary nodules are fairly common.

Benign lung tumors usually require no treatment, but your doctor will probably monitor your tumor to see if it grows.

Malignant lung tumors (lung cancer) often spread beyond the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. It pays to quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, because quitting can lower your chances of developing lung cancer.

Types of lung cancer include:

  • Small cell lung cancer: This cancer occurs in heavy smokers and is less common.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer: This cancer is an umbrella term for several types of lung cancersadenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

Malignant tumors in the lung may also be metastasis, meaning they traveled to the lungs from cancer that originated in another part of your body.

What happens once you have lung tumors?

With benign tumors, you may not have any symptoms. More than 90 percent of tumors (sometimes called nodules) are found by accident when you get a chest X-ray or CT scan for some other reason.

Symptoms may include:

  • Coughing up blood.

  • Rattling sound in the lungs.

  • Mild cough that lasts a long time.

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing.

Malignant tumors can grow large before they are felt. The first symptom is usually a painless lump. As the tumor grows, it can press on nearby nerves and muscles, causing pain. Do not wait to see your doctor, lung cancer treated early can be curable.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is advanced. They may include:

  • Chest pain.

  • Hoarseness.

  • Bone pain.

  • Headache.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Losing weight without trying.

  • A new cough that doesn't go away.

  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount.

What causes lung tumors?

Possible causes of benign lung tumors and nodules include:

  • Birth defects.

  • A lung abscess (pus-filled infection).

  • Infection from human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Granulomas (small clumps of inflamed cells) that develop as a result of a bacterial infection or fungal infection.

  • Inflammation from diseases like rheumatoid sarcoidosis, arthritis, or Wegener’s granulomatosis.

Risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Genetics: Family history of lung cancer.

  • Smoking: Quitting at any age can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke: Your risk of lung cancer increases if you're exposed to secondhand smoke.

  • Previous radiation therapy: If you've had radiation therapy to the chest, you're at higher risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Exposure to radon gas: Radon is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Unsafe levels of radon can accumulate in buildings, including homes.

  • Exposure to carcinogens: Workplace exposure to materials that can cause cancer—asbestos, arsenic, chromium, and nickel—can increase your chance of getting lung cancer.

What types of tests are used to diagnose lung tumors?

Lung tumors and nodules can be seen on a chest X-ray or CT (computed tomography) scan. Often, nodules are found accidentally when you have a chest scan for something else. If a tumor is suspected, your doctor may want to take a tissue sample (biopsy).

Some characteristics that make it more likely a nodule is benign include:

  • Smooth surface.

  • Small size.

  • More regular shape.

  • Higher calcium content.

  • Not growing fast or at all.

What types of treatments and procedures are used to treat lung tumors?

In most cases, benign lung tumors don’t require treatment. Your healthcare team may recommend taking out a benign tumor if:

  • It continues to grow.

  • It causes difficulty breathing.

  • Tests show that cancer could be present.

  • You are a smoker or have a high risk of cancer.

If your lung tumor is malignant, you and your doctor will choose a cancer treatment plan based on a number of factors, such as your overall health, the type and stage of your cancer, and your preferences.

These are some common treatments for lung cancer:

  • Surgery.

  • Palliative care.

  • Chemotherapy.

  • Immunotherapy.

  • Radiation therapy.

  • Targeted drug therapy.

  • Stereotactic body radiotherapy.

What can I do to support my health when I have a lung tumor?

If you’ve had surgery to remove a benign lung tumor and the tumor has been completely removed, you usually will not need any additional treatment. If you and your doctor have agreed to monitor your lung tumor, you will want regular appointments to make sure it's not growing.

Call your healthcare provider if you:

  • Lose weight of ten or more pounds without trying.

  • Develop new shortness of breath, fever, chills, or chest pain.

  • Experience a change or increase in cough or cough up blood.

These may be signs of cancer.

Why choose Presbyterian for lung tumor treatment?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a team of highly-skilled surgeons using some of the most trusted and advanced surgical techniques including robotic lung surgery with the DaVinci Xi system. Their surgical team can help you decide what treatment is best for you and help you prepare for your procedure.

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Presbyterian Heart & Vascular Care Providers

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