Conditions and Diagnoses

Thoracic conditions affect the lungs, trachea, bronchi, chest wall, mediastinum and other noncardiac organs of the chest.

Click on a term below to learn more about thoracic conditions.

  • Lung Cancer

    Lung cancer is cancer that begins in the lungs, the two organs found in the chest that help you breathe. It is the number one cancer killer of men and women.

    The lungs are made up of areas called lobes. The right lung has three lobes; the left lung has two, so there's room for the heart. When you breathe, air goes through your nose, down your windpipe (trachea) and into the lungs where it spreads through tubes called bronchi. Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes.

  • Interstitial Lung Disease (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis)

    Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a disease of the lower respiratory tract that damages the air sacs (alveoli) and leads to reduced transfer of oxygen to the blood. It causes widespread scarring of the lung.

    The condition is believed to result from an inflammatory response to an unknown agent — "idiopathic" means no cause can be found. The disease occurs most often in people between 50 and 70 years old.

    A patient may need a biopsy to diagnose this or rule out other causes of shortness of breath or reason for an abnormal X-ray.

  • Mediastinal Tumor (Thymoma or Lymphoma)

    Mediastinal tumors form in the area that separates the lungs. The mediastinum is the part of the chest between the sternum and the spinal column. It contains the esophagus, trachea, heart, lymph nodes and other important structures. The mediastinum is divided into three sections:

    • The anterior (front)
    • The middle
    • The posterior (back)

    The thymus gland may be removed because of a cancerous growth or to treat some cases of myasthenia gravis.

  • Sarcoidosis

    Sarcoidosis is a disease of unknown cause in which inflammation occurs in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin or other tissues. Sarcoidosis can be acute, subacute or chronic. Possible causes of sarcoidosis include hypersensitivity to environmental factors, genetics or extreme immune response to infection.

  • Pleural Effusion

    Your body produces pleural fluid in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the pleura, the thin membrane that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. A pleural effusion is an abnormal collection of this fluid.

  • Mesothelioma

    Malignant mesothelioma is a cancerous tumor of the pleura (lining of the lung and chest cavity) or peritoneum (lining of the abdomen) that is almost always associated with sustained exposure to asbestos. It can take 20 to 50 years or even longer between exposure to asbestos and onset of the disease.

    Benign mesothelioma is a noncancerous tumor of the pleura (lining of the lung and chest cavity). Nonmalignant mesothelioma is usually a localized tumor that affects men more frequently than women. The tumor may grow to a large size and compress the lung, causing the symptoms of shortness of breath.

  • Empyema

    Empyema is a collection of pus in the pleural space (the cavity between the lung and the membrane that surrounds it) caused by an infection that spreads from the lung. The infected fluid can build up to a quantity of a pint or more, which puts pressure on the lungs, causing shortness of breath and pain.

  • Esophageal Cancer

    Esophageal cancer is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the esophagus, the muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach. It is relatively uncommon in the United States and occurs most often in men ages 50 and older.

  • Sarcoma/Rhabdomyosarcoma

    Sarcomas usually originate elsewhere in the body, and if they appear in the chest, may be removed or ablated.

    Rhabdomyosarcoma is a malignant (cancerous), soft tissue tumor found in children. The most common sites are the structures of the head and neck, the urogenital tract, and the arms or legs.

  • Aspergillosis (Fungal Infection of the Lung)

    Aspergillosis is an infection, growth or allergic response caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which is commonly found growing on dead leaves, stored grain, compost piles or in other decaying vegetation.

    There are several forms of aspergillosis:

    • Pulmonary aspergillosis is an allergic bronchopulmonary type is an allergic reaction to the fungus that develops in with asthma.
    • Aspergilloma is a growth (fungus ball) that develops in an area of previous lung disease such as tuberculosis or lung abscess.
    • Pulmonary aspergillosis is an invasive type is a serious infection with pneumonia that spreads to other parts of the body. This infection occurs almost exclusively in people with weakened immune systems due to cancer, AIDS, leukemia, organ transplantation, chemotherapy or other conditions or events that reduce the number of normal white blood cells.