Lung Nodule - Health Education

Do you know what a lung nodule is?

If your doctor has told you that you have a lung nodule, you undoubtedly have questions—like what exactly is a lung nodule? Simply put, it’s a mass of tissue found inside the lung.

Although lung nodules are common, patients rarely display symptoms—doctors generally discover them while performing a CT scan or X-ray for another medical reason.

At the lung nodule program at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, experts who specialize in lung nodules can help you find the answers you seek. A team of University of Minnesota specialists provides accurate diagnosis and helps you understand the treatment options that are available.

What is a lung nodule?

A lung nodule is a mass of tissue inside the lung, which is easily seen on an X-ray. Lung nodules are common, and the majority is non-cancerous. But it’s important to follow up with a specialist to make sure. Radiologists are able to measure the size of the nodule to help determine the next steps. Based on the size of the mass, your doctor may suggest monitoring it over a period of time to watch for changes. Sometimes, further exploratory measures are necessary—after your initial evaluation, the care team may recommend imaging, collecting a sample from the nodule or surgically removing the nodule.
Physicians at our lung nodule program work closely with all members of your care team to ensure the best care possible. The program’s multidisciplinary team, which meets weekly to review and create individualized care plans for each patient, includes:
  • Pulmonologists
  • Thoracic surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Nurse coordinators

If you have any concerns about your lung nodule(s), call 612-624-LUNG (5864). The care coordinators will help you gather the necessary information and schedule your appointment.

Is it cancer?

Determining whether a lung nodule is cancerous or if it could lead to cancer can be challenging. The first step in doing so is to make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in lung nodules. He or she will consider several factors before making a diagnosis such as:

  • Age. For patients younger than age 35, there’s a minimal possibility that the nodule is cancerous; people over the age of 50 have an increased risk.
  • Size and shape of the nodule.
  • Medical history. Those with a history of cancer, infections and illnesses may be at higher risk.
  • Exposure to smoke and environmental hazard. Patients who smoke or used to smoke, or who’ve been exposed to asbestos and other known causes of lung cancer, are at higher risk for cancerous lung nodules.
  • Growth of the nodule. Benign nodules typically don’t grow while cancerous nodules tend to increase in size more quickly.

If your lung nodule is cancerous, University of Minnesota Physicians cancer care specialists are available onsite to help you determine the best treatment for you.

What causes lung nodules?

Non-cancerous lung nodules may develop for several reasons:

  • Abnormal formation of normal tissue
  • Inflammation
  • Bacterial and fungal infection
  • Scars
  • Blood vessel abnormalities

Causes of cancerous lung nodules include lung cancer or cancer that has spread to the lungs from another area of the body, as well as lymphomas.

For more information, visit the Lung Nodule Clinic or call 612-624-LUNG (5864).

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