Learn about lung nodules

What Is a Lung Nodule?

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a lung nodule, you may be asking yourself ,“What is a lung nodule — and how will it affect me in the future?”

UPMC offers lung screenings for smokers who qualify. Call 412-623-3319 to find out if you are eligible.

A lung nodule is a spot on the lung that shows up on an x-ray or CT scan. A variety of conditions can cause lung nodules, according to the American Thoracic Society.

  • Scar tissue
  • An infection
  • A noncancerous growth
  • Airborne irritants
  • Tumors that originated from another part of the body
  • Early lung cancer, in rare cases

Lung Nodule Symptoms

Lung nodules often do not cause symptoms. In fact, they are usually discovered while getting an x-ray for a non-related condition. If your lung nodule is the result of an infection, you may notice symptoms of the infection, such as fever with shortness of breath.

Am I at Risk of Developing a Lung Nodule?

Lung nodules are quite common, and the vast majority are benign. You may be at a higher risk for cancerous lung nodules if you:

  • Have inflammation in the lungs from an occupational hazard, such as exposure to asbestos or coal dust
  • Have a history of smoking
  • Have had an infection in the lungs
  • Have a family history of lung cancer

Treatment Options for Lung Nodules

Lung nodules are typically treated with “watch the spot” approach. Your health care team will perform a series of CT scans (usually every three to six months) to see if the nodule is growing. Benign lung nodules do not grow. After about two years of observation, doctors may determine that your nodule is benign, and you will not need additional testing.

If your nodule appears to grow, your doctor may have you undergo a PET scan, or a scan that shows any abnormal tissue activity. You may also need a biopsy of the lung nodule. During this procedure, a piece of the nodule will be surgically removed for testing in a lab.

Can a Lung Nodule be Removed?

If your nodule is not causing health problems, doctors likely will not remove it. If the nodule is cancerous, doctors may remove it as a part of your cancer treatment.

If you are still smoking, you should quit as soon as possible to prevent further injury to the lung tissue. Pennsylvania offers a free resource for smokers to quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) to get started.