Tumor - metastatic pleural

Alternative names
Metastatic pleural tumor

Metastatic pleural tumors are a type of cancer caused by malignant cells that have spread from another organ to the pleural space (the space surrounding the lungs).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cancer cells can be transported by the blood and lymph systems to other organs in the body, where they can produce new growths or tumors. Almost any cancer can spread to the lungs, and metastases (spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body) are found in 20-40% of patients dying of cancer.

Metastatic pleural tumors usually cause a pleural effusion (collection of fluid in the pleural space), which is often bloody. Patients who have previously had cancer are at risk for developing metastatic pleural tumors if the cancer was not successfully controlled with treatment. The incidence is 5 out of 10,000 people.


  • Shortness of breath on exertion  
  • Chest pain  
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)  
  • Weight Loss  
  • Cough

Signs and tests

Pleural tumors usually cannot be surgically removed. The primary cancer should be treated. chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be appropriate treatment choices depending upon the type of primary cancer.

Support Groups
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group and lung disease - support group.

Expectations (prognosis)
The 5-year survival rate (number of people who live for more than 5 years after diagnosis) is less than 25% for people with metastatic pleural tumors.


  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy  
  • Continued spread of cancer

Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you experience symptoms of this disorder.

Early detection and treatment of primary cancers may prevent metastatic pleural tumors in some individuals.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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