Chest and Lung Disease

         Heart & Vascular Care at EvergreenHealth, Kirkland WA
 Endoscopic view of the lung
 

The chest cavity contains the heart, lungs, airways, thymus, esophagus, great vessels, and lymphatics. Diseases of the chest, which affect these structures, are extensive and include: esophageal reflux, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, chronic lung infections, diseases of the pleura, thoracic outlet syndrome, and hyperhidrosis  (excessive sweating).

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women.  Lung cancer usually affects people between 45 and 75 years old.  Cigarette smoking is the most common risk factor. Other risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to asbestos, second hand smoke exposure, radiation, and other toxin exposures.

Symptoms can include cough, pneumonia, chest pain, and shortness of breath.  Unfortunately when lung cancers become symptomatic, they are usually in advanced stages.

A simple chest x-ray can detect larger lung masses, however a chest CT scan is the most sensitive for detecting smaller lung lesions.  The presence of a lung mass does not always mean cancer, as a matter of fact a majority of lung lesions found incidentally, are benign.  If a lung mass appears suspicious, then the next step would be a biopsy to obtain a diagnosis.  A biopsy can be obtained with a needle or surgery to obtain a tissue specimen.

The treatment of lung cancer may be surgical resection, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments.  The ability to remove a cancer surgically will depend on the size of the tumor, location of the tumor, and any underlying lung and breathing problems.

Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating is a condition, which receives very little attention and is generally over-looked. The problems which presents to those who suffer from the condition are enormous and beyond embarrassing.  In severe cases, the patient may suffer from social withdrawal and depression.  The cause of the problem is a dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to over stimulation.  Clinically, this manifests as a cold and clammy sensation and dripping, sweating palms.

The non-surgical treatments can vary from topically applied antiperspirants to Botox injections.  These methods are generally not effective in more severe cases.  Surgical treatment involves clipping or cutting the sympathetic nerves.  The surgeons at EvergreenHealth Heart & Vascular Care perform this procedure through small incisions, utilizing a scope and small instruments to remove or clip the sympathetic chain.  Results are seen almost immediately.  Compensatory sweating (excessive sweating in other areas) may occur after the procedure.

Thymomas are tumors originating from thymus gland.  The thymus gland is located under the breastbone and its role is to produce lymphocytes.  Thymomas are commonly associated with myasthenia gravis and other immune disorders.  Myasthenia gravis can lead to severe weakness leading up to respiratory distress.  Treatment for myasthenia can vary from medications to improve muscle contraction, plasmapheresis to remove the antibodies, or thymectomy. Treatment for thymoma is to remove the thymus gland.  Radiation and chemotherapy may be used in addition in advanced stages.

Our physicians are specialty trained and board certified to treat diseases of the chest and pleura.  We provide advanced and minimally invasive surgery for lung, pleura, and airway diseases, esophageal diseases, hyperhidrosis, diseases of the great vessels and thoracic aorta.  We will work with your pulmonologist, internist, and oncologist to assure complete multidisciplinary care and optimal outcomes.