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Thoracic cancer develops in the chest, also known as the thoracic cavity. It can affect the organs, glands, or structures of the chest. The most common types of thoracic cancer are lung cancer and esophageal cancer. Less common forms are pleural cancer (which affects the pleural lining or space between the lungs and the chest wall), cardiac tumors, and thymus cancer.
Find a Doctor at Dignity Health using our online tool or by calling 855.666.2839 to learn more about thoracic cancer prevention in Arizona. We offer cancer resources at our Chandler Regional Medical Center and at the Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.
Health experts do not fully understand what causes any cancer, including thoracic cancer. They know that changes in the genetic material (DNA) of a cell can cause it to become cancerous over time, eventually forming a tumor. Exactly how this occurs is complex and depends on many unique characteristics.
Anyone can get thoracic cancer, but certain factors increase your risk. Risk factors vary for each type. Lifestyle factors can play a large role in developing thoracic cancer. For example, smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancers and increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Your risk goes up the more you smoke and the longer you smoke.
There are no standard screening tests for thoracic cancers for people with an average risk. Screening exams are available for people at high risk for lung cancer or esophageal cancer. If you are at high risk, a doctor can help determine if these thoracic cancer screening tests are right for you. Dignity Health provides cancer screenings tailored to the specific needs for men, women, and children and teens.
You can reduce your risk of thoracic cancer by changing the risk factors that you can control. For the two most common thoracic cancers — lung cancer and esophageal cancer — this means quitting smoking. In fact, most cases of lung cancer are preventable by not smoking or stopping smoking. This is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself. It’s never too late to quit. Quitting decreases your risk, regardless of your age.
Other steps you can take toward preventing thoracic cancer involve living a healthy lifestyle. This includes being physically active, eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol use, and maintaining a healthy weight. These habits can decrease your overall risk of cancer.
Ask your doctor about healthy goals for you and talk about strategies to get there. Changing lifestyle habits can be difficult. If you have a setback, do not let it discourage you from trying again.