A lung nodule is a small mass that can show up as a spot on the lung during a CT scan or chest X-ray. The good news is that finding out you have a lung nodule is not cause for panic — fewer than 5% of all nodules are cancerous. Still, when should you worry about lung nodules if you have them?
Are You At Risk for Lung Cancer?Assess Your Risk
CHRISTUS Health lung nodule program is for anyone who has an abnormal chest X-Ray/CT Scan or has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Our lung nodule program starts with your diagnostic or baseline CT Scan.
From there we will do a complete evaluation including:
- Diagnosis and recommendation within one week
- Manage follow-up visits
- Maintain ongoing collaborative communication with referring physicians
- Coordinate care with multiple specialists from Hematology, Pulmonology, Radiation Oncology, and Thoracic Surgery
- Provide patient education
What Causes Lung Nodules?
Most lung nodules, also called pulmonary nodules, are caught during chest scans that are done for other reasons, for example, when your doctor thinks you may have a respiratory infection. Common reasons for lung nodules include:
- Scar tissue
- A previous infection in the lung
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Irritants in the air
In fact, lung nodules are found in up to half of adults who get chest scans. But your doctor will likely want to keep an eye on any he or she finds and do additional tests to make sure they are benign. Your doctor will take factors such as the size, shape and location of each nodule into consideration when deciding next steps. Most often, you will have another CT scan within several months to a year. If the nodule has gotten larger, your doctor might do another imaging test called a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. In certain cases, a biopsy might be performed. Rarely, your doctor might do surgery to remove the nodule along with surrounding lung tissue.
Who Should Get Lung Cancer Screening?
While screening is not recommended for everyone, many doctors encourage annual screening for certain high-risk individuals. This includes people who have all three of the following risk factors:
- A 20 pack-year or longer history of smoking. This means someone who has smoked an average of one pack per day for at least 30 years or two packs per day for at least 15 years.
- Current smoker or former smoker who quit within the last 15 years.
- Are 50–80 years old.
- Have no history of lung cancer
If you have any of the above risk factors, talk to your doctor about whether you need screening. After all, early detection of lung cancer really pays off.
Our goal is to simplify the process for patients by assigning a nurse coordinator to oversee their process. By doing so, each lung nodule program patient is given the best course of treatment based on a thorough examination, evaluation and consultation from our specialists. Further testing or immediate treatment may be recommended if the patient has a high risk for lung cancer or diagnostic tests indicate that the lung nodule is cancerous.