Discussing an x-ray abnormality with a patient that may potentially reflect a serious health problem is always difficult. In our pulmonary practice there is no more emotionally charged discussion than telling a patient a nodule has been found on their cat scan of the chest. The specter of lung cancer is always present and a concern. A nodule is just a dot found on the cat scan. There are approximately 1.5 million so-called incidental pulmonary nodules (IPNs) found annually but patients with at least a 20-pack year smoking history and are 55 years of age or older should be screened yearly to look for evidence of potential lung cancer and there is a follow-up protocol for these and other patients to help determine what approach should be taken along the way.

The good news is that most small IPN’s are benign especially if they are calcified but we do find some patients that have not had the recommended screenings or follow up. Some screened patients will ultimately be found to have a lung cancer which has been detected in an early stage and curable. Unfortunately, some of the IPNs will be large and reflect advanced stage cancer when therapy may be limited.

If you have been found to have an incidental pulmonary nodule (IPN) on your cat scan of the chest, you should have some follow up and you may contact the Lung Disease Center at 814-946-2845 to find out if you should be screened for lung cancer