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Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma

A relatively uncommon type of non-small cell lung cancer, bronchioloalveolar carcinoma develops in the small air sacs (alveoli) in the outer layer of the lungs. Typically, the cancer originates in the lung periphery and grows along alveolar walls and airways, but does not affect the portion of the lung involved in gas transfer (parenchyma). In some cases, the tumor grows slowly; in others, it grows very rapidly. Unlike other forms of lung cancer, however, bronchioloalveolar carcinoma usually remains confined to the lungs.

There are two main types of bronchioloalveolar carcinoma: non-mucinous and mucinous, or mucus-producing. Non-mucinous bronchioloalveolar carcinoma is more common, particularly among smokers.

What Causes Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma?

Little is known about the precise causes of bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, which affects smokers and nonsmokers alike. Recent studies suggest a possible link to conditions that scar the lungs, such as pulmonary fibrosis and tuberculosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma?

Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma often produces pneumonia-like symptoms, such as:

  • Persistent coughing
  • A cough that produces blood or frothy mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

How Is Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma Diagnosed?

The diagnostic process for all types of lung cancer, including bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, typically involves:

  • A physical examination
  • A mucus sample analysis to look for cancerous cells
  • Imaging studies, such as a bone scan, MRI scan, CT scan or PET scan of the chest
  • A fine-needle aspiration biopsy

How Is Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma Treated?

In many cases, surgical removal of the tumor is the preferred approach for treating bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. Another potentially effective option is targeted therapy, which is designed to focus on specific genes and proteins involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells. Lung transplantation may also be considered as a treatment option for bronchioloalveolar carcinoma.

World-class lung cancer care is available at Tampa General Hospital. Our renowned team includes thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, cardiologists, respiratory therapists, critical care specialists, nurses and other medical professionals. Working together, we ensure that each patient receives fully individualized and all-encompassing care.