If you’ve recently been told you have a lung nodule, you might be worried you have lung cancer. Fortunately, most small nodules are not cancer, and cancerous nodules are often caught at an early stage where lung cancer is easier to treat effectively. Here’s what you need to know if a nodule has appeared on your chest X-ray or CT scan:
What is a Lung Nodule?
A lung nodule is a round area on the lung that is denser than normal lung tissue. Nodules are found in up to half of the adults who get a chest X-ray or CT scan.
A nodule will appear as a white spot on a CT scan, and is usually caused by scar tissue, an infection, or an irritant in the area. Sometimes, nodules are caused by lung cancer or other cancers that have spread to the lungs. Certain risk factors, such as being over the age of 50, having a larger nodule, smoking, or having a family history of lung cancer, may increase the chance of a nodule being cancerous.
Most lung nodules do not cause symptoms, but some people may experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or respiratory infection.
What Happens After Finding a Lung Nodule?
Your healthcare provider will most likely recommend additional screening to monitor a lung nodule and watch for growth over time. To determine if a nodule is cancer, your provider will:
· Assess your risk for lung cancer
· Review images and order more images if necessary
· Perform a procedure called a biopsy if needed
My Nodule is Being Monitored. When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider?
Small lung nodules can be safely monitored with screenings, but you should contact your physician if you:
· Experience a change in your cough, or cough up blood
· Develop new shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, or chills
· Experience a significant unintended weight loss
· Would like more information about your nodule and options
What If My Nodule is Cancer?
If your nodule is lung cancer, there is a good chance it will be caught at an early stage when it is treatable by surgery or radiation. The time spent monitoring your nodule should not affect your chances of effective treatment.
Minnesota Oncology provides leading-edge, personalized care for patients with lung cancer in the Twin Cities if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, call (844) 317-4673 for more information or to make an appointment.