Malignant pleural effusions occur when cancer cells to the pleural cavity and cause fluid to accumulate there. This can lead to difficulty breathing, chest pain, and coughing. Malignant pleural effusions are typically seen with advanced cancers and are diagnosed through imaging tests and fluid analysis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Management of malignant pleural effusions involves treating the underlying cancer and managing symptoms. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. Additionally, medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and control pain. In some cases, surgical procedures are performed to treat the effusions themselves. Such procedures include a procedure called pleurodesis which is performed to prevent fluid from accumulating in the pleural cavity. This involves either injecting a substance into the pleural space to create inflammation and "seal" the pleura together, or a surgical procedure that mechanically causes the lung to seal to the chest wall. Another common option is placement of a pleural catheter, which comfortably allows the fluid to be drained at home on multiple occasions, often while the cancer is treated with other therapies.