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Pulmonary Nodules

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What are pulmonary nodules?

Pulmonary nodules are areas of abnormal tissue in your lungs. You may not have any symptoms, or you may have chest tightness, a cough, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Nodules are usually found with an x-ray or CT scan. Most nodules are not cancerous. However, it is still important for you to return for follow-up testing to monitor your condition.

What increases my risk for pulmonary nodules?

  • Smoking
  • A history of a lung infection or lung surgery
  • Exposure to asbestos or air pollution

How are pulmonary nodules managed?

  • Your healthcare provider will refer you to a pulmonologist. Some nodules do not need treatment. You may need a CT scan every 3 to 12 months to monitor your nodules for any change or growth. You may need to continue these tests for 1 to 3 years.
  • If you have a history of smoking, a family history of lung cancer, or the nodule is large, you may need a PET scan or a biopsy. A PET scan takes pictures of your lungs after a small amount of radiation is injected into your body. A biopsy is a sample of tissue taken from the nodule. A biopsy can be done with a needle, or during a bronchoscopy or surgery. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a lung biopsy.

How can I decrease my risk for lung cancer?

Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage or cancer. Stay away from others who smoke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you or someone close to you currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have severe shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
  • Your lips or nails look blue or pale.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You cough up blood.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded or are short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cannot think clearly.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.