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Lung Metastases

Cancerous tumours in lung tissue that have spread from another part of the body

  • Most common between the ages of 50 and 70
  • More common in females
  • Genetics and lifestyle as risk factors depend on the cause

Lung metastases, also known as secondary lung cancer, are tumours that have spread to the lungs from other parts of the body. Lung tissue is a very common site for metastases because all circulating blood passes through the lungs, allowing cancerous cells to be carried into lung tissue from other parts of the body. The primary (original) cancers that spread most often to the lungs include cancers of the breast, colon, prostate gland, and kidney.

Secondary lung cancers may not cause symptoms. However, if many secondary tumours have formed in the lung, you may feel short of breath. You may also develop a cough, which can produce blood if a tumour is blocking an airway.

What might be done?

If cancer has already been diagnosed elsewhere in your body, your doctor may arrange for you to have a chest X-ray to check whether the cancer has spread to your lungs. If the site of the original cancer has not been confirmed, further tests may be carried out to locate it. For example, women will probably have a breast X-ray (see Mammography) to look for evidence of a breast tumour.

Treatment is aimed at destroying the primary cancer. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormonal treatment (see Anticancer drugs) may be used, depending on the type and extent of the primary tumour. To some extent, the overall outlook depends on the type of primary cancer. However, by the time lung metastases have been detected, there are usually several tumours, and treatment is difficult.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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