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Metastatic pleural tumor

Tumor - metastatic pleural


Metastatic pleural tumor is a type of cancer that has spread from another organ to the thin membrane (pleura) surrounding the lungs.



The blood and lymph systems can carry cancer cells to other organs in the body, where they can produce new growths or tumors. The spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body often occurs in patients who are dying of cancer.

Almost any type of cancer can spread to the lungs and involve the pleura.




Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Chest pain, especially when taking a deep breath
  • Cough
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss


Exams and Tests


The doctor or nurse will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms. Tests that may be done include:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Open pleural biopsy
  • Pleural fluid analysis
  • Pleural needle biopsy
  • Removal of fluid from around the lungs (thoracentesis)




Pleural tumors usually cannot be removed with surgery. The original (primary) cancer should be treated. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be appropriate, depending on the type of primary cancer.

Your health care provider may recommend thoracentesis if you have a lot of fluid collecting around your lungs and you have shortness of breath or low blood oxygen levels. This procedure removes the fluid and allows the lung to expand more, making it easier to breathe.

To prevent the fluid from collecting again, medication may be placed directly into your chest space through a tube, called a catheter. Or, your surgeon may spray a medication or talc on the lung surface during the procedure. This helps seal the space around your lungs to prevent the fluid from returning.


Support Groups


You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.


Outlook (Prognosis)


The 5-year survival rate (number of people who live for more than 5 years after diagnosis) is less than 25% for people with pleural tumors that have spread from other parts of the body.


Possible Complications


  • Side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Continued spread of the cancer




Early detection and treatment of primary cancers may prevent metastatic pleural tumors in some persons.




Arenberg D, Pickens A. Metastatic malignant tumors. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, et al., eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 49.

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        Tests for Metastatic pleural tumor


        Review Date: 5/29/2014

        Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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