While researchers aren’t completely sure what causes a Pancoast tumor to develop, they do know that certain factors can place someone at a higher risk for this type of cancer. These factors include:
- Tobacco use
- Secondary smoke exposure
- Exposure to occupational hazards, such as asbestos, diesel exhaust, nickel and gold
These factors introduce carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, into the body. Carcinogens can cause unique biological responses within the body, including changes to the body’s cell production process in the lungs, which is what ultimately causes the Pancoast tumor to form. The carcinogens can trigger slight genetic changes in individual tissue cells, and these genetic changes cause the cells to mutate and divide much more quickly than they normally would. Then, a small cluster of abnormal cells may form, developing into a Pancoast tumor.
When considering the carcinogens mentioned above, it’s important to remember that they are not direct causes of a Pancoast tumor. Many people will come into contact with carcinogens at some point throughout their life, and never become ill. As is the case with most other cancers, a person’s risk of developing a Pancoast tumor often increases with the dose and frequency of their exposure to carcinogens. However, some people will develop cancer without ever having been exposed to any of the recognized main carcinogens.
Are Pancoast Tumors Preventable?
The best way to prevent Pancoast tumors from developing is to avoid tobacco products entirely and to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke. You may also want to take measures to reduce your exposure to asbestos, diesel exhaust and other occupational hazards. All of these measures will also reduce your lung cancer risk, as well.
Moffitt Cancer Center’s Approach to Pancoast Tumors
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we don’t just treat Pancoast tumors; we're constantly conducting research studies to better understand them. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we’re always looking for ways to learn more about Pancoast tumor causes and risk factors so that we can bring our patients the most advanced care possible.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Lary Robinson.
To learn more about our Pancoast tumor treatment programs or our current list of clinical trials, call 1-888-663-3488 (or request an appointment.) No referral is required to meet with our lung cancer treatment team.