Jefferson University Hospitals

Lung Nodule

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A lung nodule, or a spot on the lungs, has no signs or symptoms. They are only found incidentally, whether it’s because of other lung problems or by chance during a routine medical exam, chest X-ray, or CT scan. 

Jefferson's Lung Nodule Clinic, one of the first in the Delaware Valley, is staffed and organized by a nurse coordinator and pulmonary medicine specialists with expertise to further evaluate lung nodules. 

Typically, a lung nodule isn't a cause for concern as 80 percent are found to be noncancerous (benign). There are many causes for lung nodules, but sometimes they can be the early stages of lung cancer, especially in older adults and smokers. This is why it is important that you receive a full evaluation.

You can have a solitary nodule of lung or multiple nodules. Multiple nodules do not mean that you are at more risk of lung cancer; what matters are the shape, size and location of these nodules. If a calcium deposit is found in a nodule, it may mean that is has been there for awhile. There are also lesions known as ground-glass nodules in the lungs, which can be both malignant and benign, and are more often found in people who have never smoked.

Our staff can detect whether or not a lung nodule is benign or highly suspicious by performing:

  • Serial scans (plain chest X-ray, CT chest or abdomen) to document stability and watch the nodule's progression

  • A PET scan that shows where possible cancer cells might be, including the lymph nodes in your chest. Your doctor may suggest that you have this done before deciding what type of biopsy to perform. However, if the nodule is less than the size of a marble, a PET scan will be avoided because there is an increased risk of a falsely normal result

  • A biopsy by either bronchoscopy or percutaneous needle under CT guidance, to collect a sample of tissue from the nodule

  • Surgical resection, to completely remove the nodule

If the nodule is benign

If the nodule in your lung is benign, it may be the result of an infection or inflammation. It might also be scar tissue from a previous infection. If the nodule is very small, your doctor may have you take antibiotics for a few weeks to see if the nodule goes away. Whether you take antibiotics or not, for a small nodule, your doctor will want to repeat the CT scan in about three months.

If the nodule is cancerous

If the nodule is cancerous and you are at risk of lung cancer because you are a smoker, a former smoker or because lung cancer runs in your family or you have other risks, talk to your doctor about follow-up appointments.

Why follow-up is important

Nodules can reappear after they have been removed, so it's important that you have routine follow-up appointments. We will recommend that you have serial CAT scans for two years after the nodule has been removed. A lack of a change in a nodule as seen on a CAT scan implies stability.

To make an appointment regarding diagnosis and treatments for lung nodules, call 215-955-LUNG (5864).