Collapsed Lung: A Potential Early Indicator of Mesothelioma

Collapsed Lung: A Potential Early Indicator of Mesothelioma

Experiencing a collapsed lung may be an early sign of mesothelioma. This is the finding of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Early Diagnosis is Important

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos that is hard for doctors to diagnose. Many of the symptoms for mesothelioma could also be caused by other, more common, diseases.

It usually requires many tests to diagnose mesothelioma. Doctors usually start with a physical exam, then to an imaging scan like an X-ray or CT scan. If they see signs of mesothelioma, they will perform a biopsy to test a sample of tissue for cancer.

The delay is diagnosis also delays treatment, which has a negative impact on survival.

Investigating Collapsed Lung as a Red Flag for Mesothelioma

In this new study, the scientists wanted to look at cases where people had surgery for a collapsed lung and were later diagnosed with mesothelioma. They wanted to find out if collapsed lung could be an early sign of mesothelioma.

They looked at a database of patients who had surgery for collapsed lung or were diagnosed with mesothelioma between 2000 and 2020. They found that in 2 out of 88 mesothelioma cases, a collapsed lung was the first symptom and there was no suspicion of cancer before the surgery. This means that in these 2 cases, the doctors didn’t know the patients had cancer until they looked at the lung tissue after surgery.

To confirm the diagnosis of mesothelioma, the researchers used special tests called immunohistochemistry. This test found certain markers in the lung tissue that mean a patient has mesothelioma.

In one case, they found signs of early-stage mesothelioma in the lung tissue of a 77-year-old man who had a collapsed lung. This means that he had early signs of mesothelioma even before the cancer became invasive.

This research shows that it is important to look at the lung tissue and use special tests to look for early-stage mesothelioma. We still need more research to confirm whether a collapsed lung can be a sign of early-stage mesothelioma.


Fels Elliott DR, Konopka KE, Hrycaj SM, et al. Clinically Occult Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma in Patients Presenting With Spontaneous Pneumothorax [published online ahead of print, 2023 May 31]. Am J Clin Pathol. 2023;aqad057. doi:10.1093/ajcp/aqad057. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37256702/

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