Thoracic Cancer

Home Thoracic Cancer

Thoracic cancer refers to any cancer located in the organs, glands, or structures of your thoracic cavity, or chest. This includes well-known cancers such as lung cancer (currently the second-most common cancer among both men and women) and esophageal cancer, as well as less common cancers such as thymus cancer and pleural cancer.

Thoracic cancer symptoms vary based on the specific cancer type and the tissue it affects. In the early stages, there are often no symptoms, and as a result, thoracic cancer is harder to diagnose until it is at an advanced stage.

Symptoms

  • A new cough that does not go away or gets worse with time
  • Changes in a chronic cough or “smoker’s cough”
  • Chest pain that worsens with laughing, deep breathing, or coughing
  • Coughing up blood or bloody or rust-colored mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn, indigestion, or vomiting
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Unintentional weight loss or unexplained loss of appetite
  • Weakness

Risk factors

The most significant risk factor for thoracic cancer is smoking. Almost all lung cancers occur in people who previously or currently smoke. Small-cell lung cancer, in particular, rarely occurs in people who haven’t smoked.

The more time you spend smoking, and the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk. Being around other people who smoke also increases your risk. This “second-hand” smoke causes thousands of cases of thoracic cancer every year.

Other common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to radiation and radioactive materials: previous treatment for other cancers, exposure to radon, and excessive UV radiation all increase the likelihood of thoracic cancer
  • Workplace exposures: working with asbestos (common in mines, some factories, and shipyards, for example) increases the possibility of lung cancer
  • Exposure to other carcinogens: heavy metals like arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium are also carcinogenic, as are silica, coal, air pollution, and diesel fumes
  • Family history of lung cancer

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