From The #PaathShaala – Learning About Thoracic Cancers

by Dr Amit Jotwani

Every now & then, the medical and non-medical teams at sit together to exchange knowledge on a myriad of subjects.

PaathShaala - Learning About Thoracic Cancers

Last month, Dr Amit Jotwani organized an “ PaathShaala“, teaching the team about the human anatomy and the types and sub-types of site-specific cancers that originate in different parts of the body. In this piece, we’re examining Thoracic Cancers, or Cancers Of The Chest.


A Quick Glance At Thoracic Cancers

Thoracic cancers refer to cancers that originate in the lungs, or in the chest region. This includes lung cancer, esophageal cancer, cancer of the thymus, and mesothelioma. Among these, Lung cancer is the most common type of thoracic cancer and also the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women (among all Thoracic cancers).


Common Symptoms For Thoracic Cancers

In its early stages, lung cancer & cancer of the thymus generally don’t exhibit any symptoms. As the cancer progresses, the initial symptoms may include consistent loss of stamina, shortness of breath, persistent cough, hoarseness of voice, pain in the bones, general fatigue, and loss of both appetite and weight.

In cases of esophageal cancer, patients may also experience difficulty in swallowing or excessive heartburn.


Diagnosis of Thoracic Cancers

It is important to diagnose Thoracic Cancers early and accurately, in order to treat them effectively. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and high- resolution Computed-Tomography (CT) scans are the most commonly used techniques to correctly diagnose Thoracic Cancers.


Treatments Available For Thoracic Cancers

The types of treatments available for Thoracic Cancers are categorized as medical, radiation and surgical treatments. An expert, relevant oncologist can help in dtermining the protocol that works best for a specific patient. Some of the advanced treatments available for Thoracic Cancers today, include:

  • Traditional Surgery
  • Minimally-invasive surgery
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
  • Stereostatic Radiation Therapy (SRT)
  • Various types of Chemotherapy


Known Thoracic Cancer Types

The list below is non-exhaustive, but contains the most commonly recognized and treatable Thoracic Cancers seen in patients today:

  • Non-small Cell Lung Cancers:

  1. Adenocarcinoma
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  3. Carcinoid tumours in the lungs

Small Cell Lung Cancers

  • Esophageal Cancers:
  1. Squamous cell carcinoma
  2. Adenocarcinoma
  • Malignant Tracheal Disease:
  1. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  2. Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC)
  • Mediastinal Tumours:
  1. Thymomas that form outside the thymus – They grow slowly and usually remain localized.
  2. Thymic carcinomas – These are rare tumours of the thymus that are more likely to spread/recur.
  • Malignant Pleural Disease

Note: Thoracic Cancers are extremely dangerous by virtue of the fact that they exhibit little-to-zero symptoms when they first develop. Patients who smoke or have been identified to be at high risk for any Thoracic Cancer type due to their occupation/environmental exposure/family history should talk to their doctors and get screened regularly to identify such cancers early, and to treat them early and effectively.

Thanks for reading !


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