Red haired doctor checking elderly man's heartbeat

What are Pulmonary Nodules?

Pulmonary nodules are small growths in the lung and may also be referred to as a “spot on the lung”, when seen by X-ray. They are quite common; however, any growth larger than 3 centimeters is considered a pulmonary mass. Pulmonary nodules are usually discovered on chest X-rays or CT scans.

Causes of Pulmonary Nodules

There are two main types of pulmonary nodules: benign or noncancerous and malignant or cancerous. The cause of benign pulmonary nodules can be related to inflammation caused by previous lung infections, fungus, rheumatoid arthritis or scar tissues as a result of inflammation in the body. Lung nodules are likely to be benign if:

  • You are under the age of 40
  • You are a nonsmoker
  • The nodule is small less than 3 cm
  • There is calcium in the nodule

Growths in the lung that are greater than 3 cm in diameter are more likely to be malignant. Risk factors associated with malignancy include having a history of smoking, exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos, coal dust and other chemicals, as well as being over the age of 50. Cancerous growths usually progress rapidly and may double in size within 4-6 months.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer
and Pulmonary Nodules

Benign lung nodules usually cause no symptoms. If the nodule is malignant, the patient may develop a new cough or possibly cough up blood. Most of the time, the patient is unaware of the presence of a nodule until a chest X-ray or CT scan is performed. If you are experiencing new symptoms such as a new cough or a cough that has changed or become more persistent, call Pulmonary Associates of Richmond at (804) 320-4243.

Diagnosis and Treatment for
Pulmonary Nodules and Lung Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with a pulmonary nodule, your pulmonologist will perform a thorough health history and physical exam. If the nodule meets the criteria for a benign growth, your lung specialist will “watch” your condition by repeating X-rays regularly over a period of time to check for changes or growth.

In the case of all cancers, early detection and diagnosis is key to receiving the proper treatment and the best chance of survival. To rule out a malignancy, the pulmonologists can order more testing to include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-rays
  • CT scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Minimally invasive lung biopsy – tissue removal and examination under a microscope to confirm malignancy

At Pulmonary Associates of Richmond, we monitor benign conditions of the lung, such as benign pulmonary nodules. We collaborate with a multidisciplinary care team in cases of malignancy. Your treatment will depend on the progression of your disease and can include:

  •  Lobectomy – removal of one lobe of the lung
  • Segmentectomy – removal of a segment of a lobe
  • Wedge resection – removal of lung nodule with a small amount of lung tissue
  • Advanced radiation techniques
  • Systemic therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted or personalized therapies

Pulmonary Associates of Richmond offers comprehensive treatments and services for patients with lung conditions and diseases of the lungs. If needed, we work with a multidisciplinary team of doctors to plan the most effective treatment and management of your conditions. Call us today to schedule your appointment (804) 320-4243.