Pulmonary Nodule

A pulmonary nodule is small area of abnormal tissue in the lung. It is usually found on an X-ray taken for other reasons. It is a single spot (lesion) up to about an inch in size, surrounded by normal lung tissue.

Most nodules are not cancerous (benign). However, a nodule could be an early stage of lung cancer. Or it may be a sign of cancer that has spread from another part of the body. When a nodule is found on a chest X-ray, further testing is needed to determine if it is benign or cancerous (malignant). To give your healthcare provider more information about the nodule, you may have one or more of these tests:

  • Comparison of a new X-ray to earlier X-rays

  • Chest CT scan

  • PET scan

  • Bronchoscopy (a procedure that allows the healthcare provider to see the air passages inside the lung)

  • Needle biopsy

  • Lung surgery or minimally invasive lung surgery such as thoracoscopy, a procedure that lets the surgeon take a portion of lung tissue through small incisions between the ribs.

Test results

  • If your nodule is benign, continued follow-up over the next 2 years is usually advised.

  • If tests do not determine whether your nodule is benign or malignant, surgery may be advised.

  • If tests show that the nodule is definitely malignant, surgery will probably be advised. Often surgery will be recommended without a biopsy, if the other testing strongly suggests that the nodule is a cancer.

The best survival rates from lung cancer occur when the original tumor is small (less than 1 inch). Follow your healthcare provider's advice on the timing of further testing. Prompt treatment gives the best chance of curing lung cancer.

Prevention

Smoking remains one of the biggest risk factors for lung cancer. If you smoke, it is essential that you quit to lower your risk of lung cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about things that can help you quit, including medicines and support groups. See the following websites for more information:

  • www.smokefree.gov

  • www.quitnet.com

Home care

Home care will depend on the diagnosis and the treatment used. Most people with a pulmonary nodule have no symptoms. If no special home care is required, you may return to your usual activities and diet.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

More information about lung cancer is available from these resources:

  • American Lung Association: 800-586-4872, www.lung.org

  • National Cancer Institute: 800-422-6237, www.cancer.gov

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Unintended weight change

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

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