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What Is a Pulmonary Cyst?

Periodic chest x-rays can help monitor a pulmonary cyst for any changes.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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A pulmonary cyst is an abnormal mass of tissue found inside one of the lungs. In the majority of cases, this type of mass is benign and frequently does not cause any noticeable symptoms. When a pulmonary cyst is diagnosed, it is usually as a result of routine testing for another medical condition or concern. Occasionally, the cyst may become malignant, or cancerous. Smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, or a previous history of cancer may increase the risks of the cyst becoming malignant.

The presence of a pulmonary cyst is not usually associated with any illnesses or diseases affecting the lungs. The exact cause for the development of this type of mass is not clearly understood in most situations. As the pulmonary cyst is typically benign, most patients do not experience any symptoms and may be completely unaware of the abnormal lesion unless diagnostic tests such as x-rays or an ultrasound of the lungs are conducted for other reasons.

After a pulmonary cyst has been found, the supervising physician may order additional tests in an effort to make sure the lesion is not cancerous. Blood tests are often performed to check for abnormalities that are commonly seen when cancer is present in the body. Chest x-rays may be performed periodically in order to monitor the pulmonary cyst for any changes, such as an increase in size.

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In some cases, a surgical procedure known as a biopsy may be needed in order to determine whether the pulmonary cyst is malignant or benign. Depending on the size and location of the nodule, a hollow needle may be inserted through the skin and into the lung in a procedure known as a needle biopsy. During the procedure, a small amount of tissue is removed from the cyst, along with some of the surrounding tissue. These tissue samples are then sent to an outside laboratory for further testing.

It is relatively uncommon for a pulmonary cyst to become malignant, although certain risk factors may increase the chances of the nodule becoming cancer. Exposure to environmental toxins, smoking, and a previous history of cancer are among the most common risk factors. If the cyst is determined to be benign, treatment may not be necessary, although some doctors may choose to remove the lesion to avoid the chances of it becoming malignant. Cancerous lesions may be surgically removed or treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

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