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Posted August 15, 2018 by Brian Bauman, M.D. Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Summa Health
Lung nodules are abnormal clusters of tissue that appear as “spots” on chest X-rays and CT scans. All lung cancers starts as a nodule; however, these spots are very common and almost 95 percent of them are not cancerous.
Lung cancer is a very tragic disease. It has the lowest 5-year survival rate of all cancers and leads to more deaths that the next 3 deadliest cancers (colorectal, pancreatic and breast) combined.
Most lung cancers are not diagnosed and treated at an early stage, contributing to the low survival rate. However, early detection, by low-dose CT screening, can increase that rate by up to 20 percent in high-risk patients.
While any spots on the lungs can be alarming, nodules are so common that they appear on one in about every 500 X-rays. Lung nodules usually cause no symptoms. That is why they are almost always found accidentally on an X-ray or CT scan.
A few signs of malignant (cancerous) vs benign (noncancerous) lung nodules include:
If it’s not cancer, what is it?
Because all lung cancers start as a nodule, the challenge is determining which nodules are or will become cancer. Some nodules may only require surveillance and routine follow-ups by a specialist, while others may require something more invasive, like a biopsy.
If it is malignant, there are also a variety of things it could be related to, including:
If a nodule is discovered during an X-ray, your doctor may recommend a CT scan. CT (or CAT) scans are special tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer. These specific types of scans can give more information on the nodule, including its size, shape and exact location.
Early detection is crucial to achieving the best outcomes. Evidence shows that screening with low-dose CT scans can reduce lung cancer mortality risk in individuals who have smoked 30 pack-years or more. A pack-year refers to the number of cigarettes smoked per day, per year over a period of time.
Summa Health has developed a specialized Lung Nodule Clinic with a dedicated team of experts who can handle everything along the continuum of lung care, including: lung cancer screenings, rapid evaluation of nodules and a multidisciplinary approach to lung cancer treatment. For more information, call 330.375.7280 in Akron and 330.615.4126 in Barberton.