Lung Nodule Treatment
Finding out that you have a lung nodule is likely a surprise and very stressful. Our team is here to provide you with expert consultation on what this means and to help develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
What is a nodule?
A nodule is a “spot” seen in the lung on an x-ray or CT scan. There can one nodule or sometimes there may be many.
In most situations, the spot is found when you have a chest x-ray or CT scan done for other reasons.
What causes lung nodules?
Many things can cause a nodule and most nodules are not cancer. Just like your skin can have old scars, freckles and discolorations, the inside of the lungs can have a variety of things that cause spots.
Nodules may include scars from prior infection or inflammation or non-cancerous tumors.
Does a nodule in my lung mean I have cancer?
No – most nodules are not cancer, though a few will turn out to be cancer.
If the nodule has been present and unchanged for more than two to three years, cancer is very unlikely (less than 1% chance).
If it's newly discovered, you may need to assess the risk of cancer in the nodule.
Assessing your nodule
Your EvergreenHealth pulmonology team will determine the nodule's risk for cancer. The team includes radiologists, chest surgeons, cancer specialists, respiratory therapists, nurses and a dedicated nurse navigator.
They will consider a lot of information to help determine the risk of cancer. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The size, shape, location and density of the nodule
- Your age
- Whether you smoke or used to smoke
- Your history of cancer
- Exposure to asbestos
- Your family history
- Where you have lived and traveled
Based on this information, the team can estimate whether there is a low, medium, or high risk of lung cancer in a nodule.
What is the next step?
If the nodule has been known and not changed in two to three years, then often nothing else needs to be done. In this situation, the nodule is not cancer.
If the nodule is newly discovered and the risk of cancer is low, you may need a few follow-up low-dose CT scans to make sure the nodule does not change. Depending on the size and features of the nodule, it might need to be followed for one-to-three years.
If the nodule is newly discovered and the risk of cancer is intermediate or high, your pulmonologist may recommend additional testing:
- A PET scan injects dye through an IV and shows if there are metabolically active cells in your lung and other parts of your body, which helps determine if there is cancer.
- Lung function testing shows the impact of smoking on your lungs and assesses the safety of several options for biopsy or even surgery.
- A biopsy involves a physician obtaining a piece of the nodule, lymph node or body fluid so that a pathologist can look at it with a microscope and determine what it is. Most biopsies are outpatient procedures and you return home the same day.
If it's cancer
If your nodule is determined to be cancer, you'll meet with your pulmonologist to go over the results and talk about what happens next.
Your lung cancer nurse navigator will also be at that meeting. She will be your partner and your advocate as you navigate the treatment part of your journey.
Rest assured the lung cancer team at the Halvorson Cancer Center is ready to begin your lung cancer treatment.