The pleura is the smooth, pale yellow transparent membrane that lines the thorax and envelopes the lungs. Its function is to protect and cushion the lungs.
The most common tumors that occur in the pleura are malignant (cancerous) forms of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos. But sometimes fibrous tumors unrelated to asbestos exposure can develop in the pleura. These can be either malignant or benign (non-cancerous).
Benign fibrous tumors of the pleura are sometimes called solitary fibrous tumors. They make up approximately 78% to 88% of non-mesothelioma tumors of the pleura. Fibrous tumors of the pleura are much less common than mesothelioma tumors of the pleura.
Benign fibrous tumors of the pleura are confined to the surface of the lung, where they start.
These tumors are slightly more prevalent in females than males. Most patients diagnosed with benign fibrous tumors of the pleura are in their 50s and 60s.
The causes of benign fibrous tumors of the pleura are not known. It is known, however, that exposure to asbestos – the primary cause of mesothelioma tumors – does not cause this condition. Smoking, though discouraged, is also not considered a cause of benign tumors of the pleura.
Many patients with benign fibrous tumors of the pleura do not have any symptoms at all, even though these tumors are often very large (up to 40 cm in diameter). Some patients may have these symptoms:
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, you should consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If your doctor thinks you may have a pleural tumor, he or she will obtain a chest X-ray or chest CT scan to check for masses. A needle or surgical biopsy will be done to find out if the tumor is benign or malignant.
Even though fibrous tumors of the pleura are not cancer, surgery is still the recommended treatment. Without surgical removal, the tumors have the potential to become malignant. Your healthcare provider can best suggest a plan of treatment to suit your diagnosis.
The outlook for a patient with benign fibrous tumors of the pleura is excellent with surgical treatment. Only about eight percent recur after surgery, and these are usually successfully treated with follow-up surgery.