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What is a Lung Nodule?

What is a Lung Nodule?

December 13, 2021
Emily Cassidy, MD
Emily Cassidy, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgery

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A lung nodule is an abnormal opacity that’s usually seen on a chest x-ray or a CT scan. The term lung nodule can be scary. People’s minds automatically go to things like tumor, cancer. The reality is that most lung nodules represent a benign finding, meaning it’s small area of inflammation or infection. Lung nodules can be representative of cancers, but most often they’re not. Most of the lung nodules that we see are found incidentally. Lung nodules are not frequently symptomatic unless they’re very, very large. A lung nodule can be found on a screening scan where the scan is ordered with the intent of looking for early stage lung cancers. But most often lung nodules are found incidentally, meaning a chest x-ray that’s performed for a completely unrelated reason or a CT scan of the abdomen where the lower parts of the lungs are seen. We’ll find these nodules and we think very carefully about what that represents. Because oftentimes, just because we’ve identified a lung nodule doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been there for several months or years. So we’ll typically follow those with repeat imaging based on our level of concern. We’ll consider doing more detailed imaging or even a biopsy.