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Cancer Treatment Centers of America


Under normal conditions, the lungs move freely because a small amount of fluid lubricates the space between the chest wall and lungs, which is called the pleural space. When too much fluid accumulates, a condition known as pleural effusion develops. The condition may affect lung cancer patients if tumors spread into the pleural space and cause fluid to build up. 

In addition, lung cancer patients may be affected if fluid collects between the sheets of tissue covering the outside of the lung (pleura) and the lining of the chest cavity. Our Interventional Pulmonology Program provides advanced treatments for primary lung cancer, cancers that metastasize to the lung and airways, lung problems such as an obstruction in the airway and other chronic lung diseases.

Other causes of pleural effusion include congestive heart failure and pneumonia. The buildup of fluid prevents one or both lungs from fully expanding while you breathe. Symptoms of pleural effusion include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • A cough
  • Fever

Pleural effusion is typically first treated by using a catheter, a tube that drains the excess fluid from the body. Recurrence is common, though, and may require other treatment techniques. Pleurodesis is commonly performed on patients with symptomatic, rapidly recurring pleural effusions. The pleural space is sealed during pleurodesis to eliminate fluid buildup. Your doctor injects a chemical agent into the chest to inflame the membranes around the lung, which causes them to join together. Three chemical agents are often used: doxycycline, bleomycin and talc.

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