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Cysts and Tumors of the Pleura


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The pleura are membranes that cover your lungs and the inside of your chest wall. They help cushion your lungs so that the lungs move easily as you breathe.

Though it is rare, tumors and cysts can develop in the pleura, affecting your breathing. Malignant (cancerous) tumors are most mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Some pleural tumors are also caused by cancer spreading (metastasizing) from the lungs or other areas of the body.

Sometimes benign, fluid-filled cysts can develop on the pleura. While these are not cancerous, they can make it difficult to breathe or cause chest pain. Both malignant and benign tumors and cysts can cause pleural effusion or fluid build-up in the lungs.

At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a team of multidisciplinary experts perform advanced surgical procedures to remove or shrink pleural tumors using surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. They work to control symptoms, such as fluid build-up, and restore your ability to breathe easily.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

One of only 71 NCI-designated cancer centers in the U.S. Sylvester is one of only two cancer centers in Florida recognized by the National Cancer Institute. We’re known for our outstanding work conducting research, treating patients, and offering innovative prevention strategies to medically underserved communities.

Robotic video-assisted surgery program ranked among top 10 in the Southeast. Our surgeons use robotic video-assisted technology to improve patient outcomes. This advanced surgical approach results in less blood loss in surgery, shorter hospital stays, and higher survival rates on average for appropriate patients.

Advanced radiation oncology tools. Sylvester offers leading-edge tools that target tumors with pinpoint accuracy, including ViewRay® MRI-guided radiation therapy – we’re one of only five medical centers in the U.S. to offer it – and RapidArc® intensity-modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). These image-guided radiation tools provide more effective treatments, shorter treatment times, and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

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  • Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy malignant cancer cells in the pleura. You might take chemotherapy as pills or intravenously (through an IV).

  • Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy uses highly targeted beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells.

  • Thoracentesis

    During a thoracentesis, your doctor uses a needle to gather fluid from the space between the lining of your chest wall and your lungs.

  • Thoracic surgery

    Surgeons can remove early-stage or small pleural tumors or cysts with advanced surgical techniques. However, some metastatic tumors cannot be removed. Surgeons may offer you procedures to prevent the cancerous fluid for building up again after thoracentesis. Pleurodesis is usually performed via thoracoscopy and includes the administration of talc to seal the space in between your lungs and your ribs. Another alternative is the insertion of a pleural catheter that could be drained at home if the buildup fluid is causing shortness of breath.


  • Chest X-ray

    This test examines your lungs and chest wall for abnormalities. It’s frequently used as a screening test for any abnormality that needs to be further characterized.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Chest

    CT scans of the chest provide details about the location and characteristics of a pleural tumor and if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the chest. It also helps your doctor find fluid buildup in your chest cavity.

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan/CT Scan

    This scan is the standard diagnostic test for chest cancers to determine the extent of the cancer.

  • Biopsy

    A biopsy is a procedure to take a sample of tissue from a pleural tumor to examine under a microscope. Fine-needle aspiration takes a small sample from the pleural space, and a core-needle biopsy involves a small incision and X-ray or ultrasound imaging to guide a needle to take a larger tissue sample.

  • Thoracoscopy

    This procedure examines your chest wall and takes samples of suspicious areas. Your doctor makes a small incision between two ribs and inserts a thin tube with a light (thoracoscope) to perform the procedure.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.