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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Unusual Cancers of the Chest

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Bronchial Tumors

Bronchial tumors begin in the cells that line the surface of the lung. Most bronchial tumors in children are benign, slow-growing tumors in the trachea or large bronchi, which are the large airways of the lung. Sometimes, a slow-growing bronchial tumor becomes cancer that may spread to other parts of the body.

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Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the bloodstream (see inset).

Symptoms and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

Bronchial tumors may cause any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Coughing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Spitting up blood from the airways or lung.
  • Frequent infections in the lung, such as pneumonia.

Other conditions that are not bronchial tumors may cause these same symptoms. For example, symptoms of bronchial tumors are a lot like the symptoms of asthma, and that can make it hard to diagnose the tumor.

Tests to diagnose and stage bronchial tumors may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • CT scan.

See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.

A biopsy of the abnormal area is usually not done because it can cause severe bleeding.

Other tests used to diagnose bronchial tumors include the following:

  • Bronchoscopy: A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. A contrast dye may be put through the bronchoscope to make the larynx, trachea, and airways show up clearer on x-ray film.
  • Octreotide scan: A type of radionuclide scan used to find tumors. A small amount of radioactive octreotide (a hormone that attaches to carcinoid tumors) is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive octreotide attaches to the tumor and a special camera that detects radioactivity is used to show where the tumors are in the body.
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