Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Lung Nodules

 


FREE PREVIEW. AAFP members and paid subscribers: Log in to get free access. All others: Purchase online access.


FREE PREVIEW. Purchase online access to read the full version of this article.

Am Fam Physician. 2015 Dec 15;92(12):online.

  See related article on pulmonary nodule

What is a lung nodule?

A lung nodule (NA-jule) is a small, ball-shaped mass that can grow in the lung. It can range in size from smaller than a pea to the size of a golf ball or larger. Your doctor can see it on a chest x-ray or CT scan. Most of the time, there are no symptoms.

Does a lung nodule mean I have cancer?

Most nodules are benign (be-NINE), which means not cancer. Infectious granulomas (gran-yoo-LO-mas) are the most common cause of benign nodules. Granulomas are formed when a group of immune cells in your body tries to fight an infection. A lung nodule can also be malignant (mah-LIG-nant), which means it is cancer or may turn into cancer. Patients who smoke or have smoked in the past, who are older than 40 years, and who have other types of cancers are at higher risk of getting lung cancer.

What tests will my doctor do?

Your doctor will usually look at x-rays and CT scans of your chest to check a lung nodule. He or she may also review old x-rays or CT scans to see if the nodule is old or new, or has changed over time. If more information is needed, your doctor may also do another type of scan called a PET scan.

What if my doctor thinks the nodule is benign?

Your doctor may watch the nodule over time with several CT scans. The scans may be done three, six, or 12 months apart to make sure the nodule is not growing.

What if my doctor thinks the nodule is malignant or growing?

Your doctor may send you to a lung or cancer specialist if your nodule is growing or if it may be malignant. The specialist might do a biopsy, which is when a doctor takes out a small piece of lung tissue and examines it under a microscope to see if it is cancer.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

National Library of Medicine

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000071.htm


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

 

Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

CME Quiz

MOST RECENT ISSUE


Sep 15, 2016

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue


Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article