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Lung metastases

Metastases to the lung; Metastatic cancer to the lung; Lung cancer - metastases; Lung mets

Lung metastases are cancerous tumors that start somewhere else in the body and spread to the lungs.

Causes

Metastatic tumors in the lungs are cancers that developed at other places in the body (or other parts of the lungs). They then spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to the lungs. It is different than lung cancer that starts in the lungs.

Nearly any cancer can spread to the lungs. Common cancers include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Testicular cancer

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms. Tests that may be done include:

Treatment

Chemotherapy is used to treat metastatic cancer to the lung. Surgery to remove the tumors may be done when any of the following occurs:

  • The first (primary) tumor has been removed
  • The cancer has spread to only limited areas of the lung
  • The lung tumors can be completely removed with surgery

However, the main tumor must be curable, and the person must be strong enough to go through the surgery and recovery.

Other treatments include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • The placement of stents inside the airways
  • Laser therapy
  • Using local heat probes to destroy the area
  • Using very cold temperature to destroy the area
  • Placing chemotherapy medicines directly into the artery that supplies blood to the part of the lung containing the tumor

Support Groups

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

Outlook (Prognosis)

A cure is unlikely in most cases of cancers that have spread to the lungs. But the outlook depends on the main cancer. Some cancers, such as lymphoma, are very treatable, and even curable. In rare cases, a person can live more than 5 years with metastatic cancer to the lungs.

You and your family may want to start thinking about end-of-life planning, such as:

Possible Complications

Complications of metastatic tumors in the lungs may include:

  • Fluid between the lung and chest wall (pleural effusion), which can cause shortness of breath or pain when taking a deep breath
  • Further spread of the cancer
  • Side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have a history of cancer and you develop:

Prevention

Not all cancers can be prevented. However, many can be prevented by:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Not smoking

References

Arenberg DA, Pickens A. Metastatic malignant tumors. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 55.

Putnam JB. Lung, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 57.

Ripley RT, Rusch VW. Lung metastases. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 52.

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  • Bronchoscopy - illustration

    Bronchoscopy is a surgical technique for viewing the interior of the airways. Using sophisticated flexible fiber optic instruments, surgeons are able to explore the trachea, main stem bronchi, and some of the small bronchi. In children, this procedure may be used to remove foreign objects that have been inhaled. In adults, the procedure is most often used to take samples of (biopsy) suspicious lesions and for culturing specific areas in the lung.

    Bronchoscopy

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    A lateral view of a chest x-ray in a patient with central cancer of the lung.

    Lung cancer, lateral chest x-ray

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  • Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray - illustration

    A chest x-ray in a patient with central cancer of the right lung. Notice the white mass in the middle portion of the right lung (seen on the left side of the picture).

    Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

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    This x-ray shows a single lesion (pulmonary nodule) in the upper right lung (seen as a light area on the left side of the picture). The nodule has distinct borders (well-defined) and is uniform in density. Tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases can cause this type of lesion.

    Pulmonary nodule - front view chest x-ray

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  • Pulmonary nodule, solitary - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan shows a single lesion (pulmonary nodule) in the right lung. This nodule is seen as the light circle in the upper portion of the dark area on the left side of the picture. A normal lung would look completely black in a CT scan.

    Pulmonary nodule, solitary - CT scan

    illustration

  • Lung with squamous cell cancer - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan shows a cross section of the lungs of a person with lung cancer. The two dark areas in the middle of the screen are the lungs. The light areas in the right lung (on the left of the screen) represent the cancer.

    Lung with squamous cell cancer - CT scan

    illustration

  • Respiratory system - illustration

    Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

    Respiratory system

    illustration

  • Bronchoscopy - illustration

    Bronchoscopy is a surgical technique for viewing the interior of the airways. Using sophisticated flexible fiber optic instruments, surgeons are able to explore the trachea, main stem bronchi, and some of the small bronchi. In children, this procedure may be used to remove foreign objects that have been inhaled. In adults, the procedure is most often used to take samples of (biopsy) suspicious lesions and for culturing specific areas in the lung.

    Bronchoscopy

    illustration

  • Lung cancer, lateral chest x-ray - illustration

    A lateral view of a chest x-ray in a patient with central cancer of the lung.

    Lung cancer, lateral chest x-ray

    illustration

  • Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray - illustration

    A chest x-ray in a patient with central cancer of the right lung. Notice the white mass in the middle portion of the right lung (seen on the left side of the picture).

    Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Pulmonary nodule - front view chest x-ray - illustration

    This x-ray shows a single lesion (pulmonary nodule) in the upper right lung (seen as a light area on the left side of the picture). The nodule has distinct borders (well-defined) and is uniform in density. Tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases can cause this type of lesion.

    Pulmonary nodule - front view chest x-ray

    illustration

  • Pulmonary nodule, solitary - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan shows a single lesion (pulmonary nodule) in the right lung. This nodule is seen as the light circle in the upper portion of the dark area on the left side of the picture. A normal lung would look completely black in a CT scan.

    Pulmonary nodule, solitary - CT scan

    illustration

  • Lung with squamous cell cancer - CT scan - illustration

    This CT scan shows a cross section of the lungs of a person with lung cancer. The two dark areas in the middle of the screen are the lungs. The light areas in the right lung (on the left of the screen) represent the cancer.

    Lung with squamous cell cancer - CT scan

    illustration

  • Respiratory system - illustration

    Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

    Respiratory system

    illustration

 

Review Date: 5/14/2018

Reviewed By: Preeti Sudheendra, MD, oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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