The use of computed axial tomography or CAT scanning has revolutionized the way pulmonary physicians can image the chest of a patient. I was around when all we had was a chest x-ray. Most of us were amazed when CAT scanning became available.

Initially, the images were recorded on regular x-ray film but now we view them on our computer screens. CAT scanning has become routine when a problem seems to involve the chest. This has led to the finding of what are called “incidental nodules.” Meaning the physician was not actually looking for any lump in the lung but just happened to find one. This usually leads to a referral to our office for advice on how to proceed.

Patients are understandably nervous when we see them for the first time and, of course, are concerned that what was found is a cancer. Many patients do not know what the word nodule means, and it is usually helpful to show them the CAT scan itself and point out the finding.

Nodules are lumps in the lung which are less than 30mm in diameter. They come in several varieties: solid, semisolid and ground glass.

The evaluation of a nodule must take into account the age of the patient, smoking history, past medical problems, immune status, and others. The initial size of the nodule also plays a role in the assessment. If you are found to have a nodule, don’t panic but do see a lung specialist for expert advice