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Thoracic cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the thoracic cavity: a space in your chest that contains your lungs and heart. Cancer can also start in the thoracic cavity tissues, such as the pleura or the pericardium. When cancer starts in the thoracic cavity, it is more likely to spread to other body parts.
It can affect any organ in the thoracic cavity, including the lungs, heart, or esophagus. Thoracic cancer is relatively rare, accounting for about 1% of all cancer cases. However, it is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 18%.
This guide will provide everything you need to know about thoracic cancer, from symptoms to treatment options. You will be better prepared to decide on your health and care with this information.
What causes Thoracic Cancer?
The exact cause of thoracic cancer is unknown. However, like other cancers, some mutations in the DNA result in the formation of tumors. Moreover, several risk factors may increase your chance of developing the disease. These include:
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and is also a major risk factor for thoracic cancer. If you smoke, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk.
- Exposure to asbestos: Asbestos is a type of insulation once used in many homes and buildings. It has been linked to several types of cancer, including thoracic cancer. If you have been exposed to asbestos, talk to your doctor about your risk.
- Family history: If you have a family member who has had thoracic cancer, you may be at increased risk.
- Age: Thoracic cancer is more common in people over 50.
What are the symptoms of Thoracic Cancer?
The symptoms of thoracic cancer vary depending on the location and stage of the disease. Early-stage cancers may not cause any symptoms. As cancer grows, it can cause:
- Cough: A cough that does not go away or gets worse over time is often one of the first signs of lung cancer.
- Shortness of breath: This may be caused by the tumor pressing on the lungs or fluid buildup around the lungs.
- Chest pain: may be caused by the tumor pressing on nearby structures such as the ribs.
- Fatigue: Cancer can cause fatigue by affecting how the body makes energy.
- Weight loss: Cancer can cause weight loss by affecting the appetite or causing metabolism changes.
- Other symptoms: Other potential symptoms include hoarseness, wheezing, and blood in the sputum.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Thoracic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, so early detection is critical. The sooner it gets diagnosed, there are increased chances of better treatment.
How is Thoracic Cancer Diagnosed?
If you have symptoms that suggest thoracic cancer, your doctor will probably order one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:
- Imaging tests: X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can create pictures of the inside of the body. These tests can often show tumors in the thoracic cavity.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure where a small tissue sample is removed from the body for testing. It is the only way to diagnose cancer definitively. There are several ways to perform a biopsy, depending on the tumor’s location.
- Bronchoscopy: This is a procedure where a thin, flexible tube is inserted through the nose or mouth and down the windpipe. The doctor can use this to look at the lungs and take tissue samples.
- Endoscopic esophageal ultrasound: This is a procedure where a thin, flexible tube is inserted down the throat and into the esophagus. The doctor can use this to take samples of tissue.
- Thoracoscopy: It is a procedure where a thin, flexible tube is inserted through a small incision in the chest. The doctor can use this to take samples of tissue from the lungs.
Once cancer is diagnosed, additional tests may be ordered to determine the stage of the disease. This process is called staging. Staging helps guide treatment decisions and gives you an idea of your prognosis.
What are the stages of Thoracic Cancer?
The TNM staging system is most commonly used to stage thoracic cancers. This system considers the size of the tumor (T), the spread to nearby lymph nodes (N), and then spread to distant organs (M)
The cancer stage is described using Roman numerals ranging from I to IV, with I being the least advanced and IV being the most advanced. The TNM categories are often combined into these stages.
- Stage I: The cancer is confined to the lung.
- Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread to distant organs.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread extensively throughout the body.
What are the treatment options for Thoracic Cancer?
The treatment of thoracic cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease, the location of the tumor, and the patient’s overall health. Treatment options include:
Surgery is often the first treatment for early-stage thoracic cancers. The type of surgery performed depends on the location and stage of the cancer. Lobectomy is the most common type of surgery used to treat lung cancer. It involves removing the lobe of the lung containing the tumor. A pneumonectomy is a more radical surgery that involves removing an entire lung. These procedures may be performed using traditional open techniques or minimally invasive techniques.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. We can use it alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. External beam radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation used to treat thoracic cancers. During this treatment, a machine directs the radiation beams at cancer from outside the body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given intravenously or taken orally in pill form. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.
Targeted therapies are newer cancer drug that works by targeting specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth. These drugs are often used in combination with traditional chemotherapy drugs.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. We can use it in combination with other cancer treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
What are the side effects of Thoracic Cancer treatment?
The side effects of thoracic cancer treatment depend on the type of treatment being used.
Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy can all cause side effects. Side effects of surgery may include pain, bleeding, infection, and risk of lung collapse.
Radiation therapy can cause side effects such as fatigue, skin irritation, and difficulty swallowing.
Chemotherapy can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and fatigue.
Targeted therapies and immunotherapy can also cause side effects. It is important to discuss the potential side effects of all treatment options with your doctor before deciding.
What is the prognosis for Thoracic Cancer?
The prognosis for thoracic cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease, the location of the tumor, and the patient’s overall health. The five-year survival rate for stage I lung cancer is approximately 80%. The five-year survival rate for stage IV lung cancer is approximately 20%.
What are the possible complications of Thoracic Cancer?
Complications may include:
- Metastasis (spread of cancer to other parts of the body).
- Recurrence (return of cancer after treatment).
- Secondary cancers (new cancers that develop in patients who have had thoracic cancer).
Treatment complications may also include side effects from surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. It is important to discuss all potential complications with your doctor before starting treatment.
Living with Thoracic Cancer
There is no one right way to cope with thoracic cancer. Some people may find it helpful to talk to friends and family about their diagnosis, while others may prefer to keep their diagnosis private.
Some people may find support groups helpful, while others may prefer to seek counseling from a mental health professional. It is important to do what is best for you and find a coping method that works for you.
Thoracic cancer can be a difficult diagnosis to receive and deal with. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone in this journey. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have, and ask about support groups and other resources in your community.
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Treating Doctor :
Dr. Jay Anam
Dr. Jay Anam Sir who performed CA Breast MRM surgery of my Mom.. I'm very grateful for your compassionate care & attention to my Mom throughout the treatment including your way of making her so comfortable, positive & strong enough during the treatment by your humble responses to all the queries. Also wanted to very much thank all the support team of Specialty Surgical Oncology (including Leena Ma'am & Sikandar Sir) for the best care
Treating Doctor :
Dr. Praveen Kammar
Dr.Praveen Kammar has been very patient in explaining diagnosis and plan of action. Fortunately our surgery, which was planned as Major surgery, could be avoided and all went out smoothly. Overall a good experience at SSO hospital and each member of the organization ensured utmost care and empathy is given to the patient. Hospital is clean and without clutter. Rooms are spacious and well maintained.
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