What Is a Lung Nodule?

by Anthony Carter on March 25, 2011


If your doctor informs you that you have a lung nodule you will likely be worried. This type of tissue can be cancerous, but it is important to make clear that most times they will turn out to be benign. This type of tissue growth is quite common but it is important that we have it investigated to ensure that it isn’t anything too sinister.

What is a Lung Nodule?

A lung nodule is small mass of tissue located in the lungs. You will also sometimes hear this referred to as a pulmonary nodule but it means the exact same thing. If we have such a nodule then it can cause symptoms such as chest tightness; it is usually while investigating this that it’s discovered that we have this type of tissue. It will usually show up on an x-ray as a white area in the lung.

There are many possible causes of lung nodules. Sometimes the nodule is there due to TB or it could be from other infections. Sometimes these nodules appear because there are abnormalities in the blood vessels, and there can also be benign lumps where the cause is unclear. If the lung nodule is bigger than 25mm then there is a higher risk that it is cancerous. This is why it is usually the larger nodules that are the cause of most concern.

How to Decide if a Lung Nodule is Sinister

The easiest way for a doctor to decide if a lung nodule is a reason for concern is to compare a current x-ray to an older one. If this lump was there in the past and it hasn’t changed in size then the chances are that it is harmless. The doctor can also reach similar conclusions by comparing CT scans over time if these are available.

If the doctor is not convinced that the lung nodule is harmless they might order a lung biopsy. This procedure involves removing a tiny bit of the tissue to examine it more closely. To perform this investigation it can other be done by creating a cut in the chest or by a bronchoscope – a tube that is passed through your mouth. Once the tissue is removed then it will be tested to decide if it is cancerous or not.

How to Deal with a Lung Nodule

If the lung nodule is not causing too many problems and it is benign then the usual way of dealing with it will be to leave it alone. If it is found that the nodule is cancerous then it will be removed as long as the progression of the disease is still in the relatively early stages. Sometimes it won’t be possible to fully remove the growth and then other options like radiotherapy and chemotherapy should be considered.

Finding out that we have a lung nodule is a worry, but in the vast majority of cases it is not going to be anything too serious. It is important though that we follow the advice of our doctor if further investigations or treatments are required.

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