Lung Nodules

The Risks and Causes of Lung Nodules

A lung nodule is a small, round, and irregular growth located in a lung. They are also known as pulmonary nodules. For the most part, the nodules are considered to be benign, but in some cases, they can be cancerous. Lung nodules themselves are pretty common, so having one is nothing to fear. They are an overgrowth of tissue in the lung that is surrounded by normal tissue. A person can either have one or multiple lung nodules.

Lung nodules are usually benign and nothing to worry about especially if you are younger than 40 years old and have no smoking history. Also, if the lung nodule is small and contains calcium it is less likely to be cancerous.

Causes of Lung Nodules

Lung nodules appear when certain conditions cause an inflammation of the lungs. Scar tissue can also lead to the development of lung nodules. Lung infections are the most common cause of lung nodules as they lead to the growth of lung tissue and inflammation.

Infections like tuberculosis can cause inflammation. When granuloma cells form around the area of inflammation in the lungs, it can create a lung nodule. They are not always cancerous and are rather common. Even though some happen to be malignant, they are still treatable and curable.

People who are older than 60 and have a history of smoking has a higher risk of their lung nodules being cancerous. A family history of cancer will also put someone at a higher risk of having a cancerous lung nodule.

The Risks of Having a Lung Nodule

If a lung nodule is benign then it will have relatively no risk of harming someone. However, about 40% of all lung nodules happen to be cancerous. Early detection of a cancerous inflammation in the lungs can increase the patient’s survival rate. If the pulmonary nodule is only one centimeter or less in diameter, then survival chances are extraordinarily increased. The average survival rate of patients with a cancerous lung nodule is at least five years after diagnosis. Most live past five years and a lot of patients can be treated and cured.

Larger lung nodules have a higher chance of being cancerous. Nodules with a size of 30 millimeters or larger are considered to be a high risk. Additionally, lung nodules that were benign at one point can increase in size and become malignant. One of the most important tasks for doctors is to determine if a pulmonary nodule is benign or not. Any growth or extra inflammation can change a diagnosis.

Symptoms of Lung Nodules

A lung nodule usually is not large enough to affect breathing. However, if a pulmonary nodule is a result of preexisting lung cancer than it can cause shortness of breath. Chest and back pain are also common symptoms of lung nodules resulting from cancer. People who are diagnosed can experience coughing up blood as well as significant unhealthy weight loss.

Most people with non-cancerous lung nodules do not experience any negative symptoms. Pulmonary nodules are often detected by accident or coincidence. They have a relatively low risk of developing into cancer. To be safe, all lung nodules should be considered cancerous until they can be proven to be benign. It is always best to be safe when dealing with anything that can remotely turn cancerous. Most lung nodules prove themselves to be safe, but catching a malignant nodule is important for treatment. Catching lung cancer in its earliest stage is the key to successfully treating a patient.

Depending on a patient’s occupation, they may be at a higher risk of having a cancerous lung nodule being present. Exposure to certain chemicals such as asbestos, nickel, radon, vinyl chloride, and chromium can increase chances of having a cancerous nodule. Also, people who travel frequently to certain places in the world are at higher risk as well. Areas that have endemic mycoses, diseases caused by a fungus, or a high presence of tuberculosis can increase a person’s chances of getting a cancerous lung nodule.

Treatment for Cancerous Lung Nodules

Anytime a lung nodule is considered to be cancerous, additional tests will take place. Blood tests will be performed on the patient. Blood tests cannot find or diagnose lung nodules, but they can be an indicator of whether or not the nodule is malignant.

Biopsies only occur if the nodule is rather large. Performing a biopsy for a small lung nodule is not very safe as it can do more harm than it can good. Risks include bleeding and the collapsing of a lung. A biopsy might be recommended if the nodule is cancerous or relatively large. A needle biopsy might be another option for certain patients. Depending on the size and location of the nodule, a needle might be inserted through the chest wall into the lung. Usually guided by a CT scan, the procedure will involve obtaining the tissue for further examination under a microscope.

If a lung nodule is not cancerous, then doctors might wait to see if anything changes. Instead of trying to remove the nodule, doctors want to know if it will negatively affect the patient. If the lung nodule proves to be harmful then further precautions will be taken. However, if it is safe to keep then no further treatment will be needed. Doctors might perform follow-up scans depending on the patient’s risk of cancer development. If a lung nodule is cancerous, patients will undergo a series of procedures and possible surgeries to remove it. Chemotherapy, thoracotomy, and radiation therapy are all currently used to treat cancerous lung nodules.

For most, lung nodules are nothing to be afraid of because they are mostly benign. Understanding the risks of pulmonary nodules is the first step of getting treated. Anyone with a smoking history and of 40 years of age or more has a higher risk of developing cancerous lung nodules. Setting up regular check-ups with a doctor can help catch cancerous nodules before they can do harm. Catching cancer early is the best way to increase chances of survival.