Learn about lung nodules

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

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

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.


About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.