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Spontaneous pneumothorax as a first sign of pulmonary carcinoma

Vladislavas Vencevičius1* and Saulius Cicėnas12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Thoracic Surgery and Oncology, Institute of Oncology, Vilnius University, Santariškių 1, Vilnius, Lithuania

2 Vilnius University, Medical Faculty, Institute of Rehabilitation, Sport Medicine and Nursing, Vilnius, Lithuania

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World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2009, 7:57  doi:10.1186/1477-7819-7-57

Published: 30 June 2009



Spontaneous pneumothorax (SP) is a rare manifestation of lung cancer. The mechanisms by which pneumothorax occurs in lung cancer is not clear, resulting in different views being expressed.

Case presentation

Here we present a case in which pneumothorax occurred as a first manifestation of lung cancer. The chest x-ray of a 68 year old man revealed a right partial pneumothorax. VATS was then performed: the visceral pleura lying over segment S3 was destroyed and air leaks were found in this section. Pathologic examination of the biopsy specimen revealed non-small cell carcinoma. Thoracoscopic talc pleurodesis was performed.


Spontaneous pneumothorax in association with lung cancer is rarely seen. Pneumothorax can be the first sign of lung cancer. The most common possibility for SP complicating lung cancer is the tumor necrosis mechanism or, in separate cases, rupture of the emphysematous bullae. Lung cancer should always be considered as a possible cause of SP in elderly patients or in heavy smokers.