Lung Cancers Associated with Cystic Airspaces: Underrecognized Features of Early Disease.
Radiographics. 2018 May-Jun;38(3):704-717. doi: 10.1148/rg.2018170099. Epub 2018 Apr 13. Sheard S1, Moser J1, Sayer C1, Stefanidis K1, Devaraj A1, Vlahos I1.
Early lung cancers associated with cystic airspaces are increasingly being recognized as a cause of delayed diagnoses-owing to data gathered from screening trials and encounters in routine clinical practice as more patients undergo serial imaging. Several morphologic subtypes of cancers associated with cystic airspaces exist and can exhibit variable patterns of progression as the solid elements of the tumor grow. Current understanding of the pathogenesis of these malignancies is limited, and the numbers of cases reported in the literature are small. However, several tumor cell types are represented in these lesions, with adenocarcinoma predominating. The features of cystic airspaces differ among cases and include emphysematous bullae, congenital or fibrotic cysts, subpleural blebs, bronchiectatic airways, and distended distal airspaces. Once identified, these cystic lesions pose management challenges to radiologists in terms of distinguishing them from benign mimics of cancer that are commonly seen in patients who also are at increased risk of lung cancer. Rendering a definitive tissue-based diagnosis can be difficult when the lesions are small, and affected patients tend to be in groups that are at higher risk of requiring biopsy or resection. In addition, the decision to monitor these cases can add to patient anxiety and cause the additional burden of strained departmental resources. The authors have drawn from their experience, emerging evidence from international lung cancer screening trials, and large databases of lung cancer cases from other groups to analyze the prevalence and evolution of lung cancers associated with cystic airspaces and provide guidance for managing these lesions. Although there are insufficient data to support specific management guidelines similar to those for managing small solid and ground-glass lung nodules, these data and guidelines should be the direction for ongoing research on early detection of lung cancer. ©RSNA, 2018.