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“Lung nodule” is a frequently used phrase to describe a finding identified by imaging studies of the lung by either chest X-ray and/or CT scans. Lung nodules are frequently round in shape and vary in size from a couple of millimeters to several centimeters. There are many causes of lung nodules most of which are noncancerous (benign) and pose no risk. Lung nodules can be the result of the healing process of an old infection caused by a variety of organisms including bacterial or fungus and noninfectious inflammatory conditions. Lung nodules may also represent a more serious problem such as lung cancer.
Small lung nodules (< 10 millimeters) are frequently benign and may only require following CT scans to ensure stability. Since early stage lung cancers can present as a nodule less than 10 mm in size additional surveillance imaging studies may be required to ensure that it does not grow. Some lung nodules are more suspicious for cancer and require additional studies such as PET scans, minimally invasive biopsy, or surgical removal. Lung nodules with characteristics more concerning for cancer such as spiculation and/or greater than 10 mm in size are frequently removed through minimally invasive video thorascopic surgery (VATS).
Someone who is found to have a lung nodule should seek the advise of a medical professional with expertise in this area. The Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey includes a comprehensive team of surgeons, minimally invasive pulmonologists, radiologists, and oncologists who are experts in the treatment of lung nodules.