Lung Nodule

A lung nodule is a small growth or area in the lungs that is less than 3 centimeters in diameter. Anything bigger than this is classified as a lung mass. Lung nodules can be benign or malignant (cancerous). In most cases, lung nodules are benign and nothing to worry about. The growths are so small that they rarely interfere with breathing or lung function. However, sometimes nodules are caused by underlying conditions which can cause problems and should be treated. The primary goal of your doctor is ensure that your lung nodule is not malignant.

Causes of Lung Nodules

Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes most lung nodules. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing this disease.

  • Family history/Genetics

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse

Other conditions that contribute to the development of lung nodules

  • Benign tumor growth, the most common of which is a hamartoma
  • Certain lung infections (i.e. bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, among others).
  • Pulmonary artery aneurysms
  • Amyloidosis: abnormal protein, called amyloid, builds up in your organs and interferes with their normal function.
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • Lipoid pneumonia: rare condition that occurs when fat particles enter the lung.

Symptoms of Lung Nodules

Lung nodules typically do not cause any symptoms, and they’re often found accidentally on an imaging test. If they do cause symptoms, they can cause:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing for a long time
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis of Lung Nodules

Lung nodules do not usually cause any symptoms, so it’s unlikely a patient will realize they have one unless it is found in an imaging test. Some of the most common tests include:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

  • Chest x-rays
  • Computed Tomography (CT scans)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positon-emission tomography (PET)
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Tissue biopsy

Treatment of Lung Nodules

Lung nodules do not usually require treatment. So long as the nodule is not interfering with lung function or showing any signs of cancer, it can usually be left alone. If it does interfere, it needs to be removed. Some treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Test your home for radon
  • Avoid carcinogens at work
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medical and Surgical procedures

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