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Lung Cancer

3mm lung nodule

10/17/2008

Question:

Recently I was told I have a 3mm lung nodule.I did a chest x-ray 4 months earlier but there was`nt anything on it. My doctor had me do a ct scan for abdomen pains and then they found the 3mm spot.Can a cest-tray pick up a 3mm spot?My family is worried that this might be lung cancer.What are my chances of getting cancer?I am 41 year old and never smoked.Thank your very much.

Answer:

It is very difficult for a chest X-ray to pick up a 3mm nodule. CT scan is the best. And it is possible that you had the nodule when you had the chest X-ray but just was not seen. Anyway, a nodule can represent anything from infection, scar, inflammation of lung or blood vessel, benign tumor or early cancer. The risk for lung cancer depends on the smoking status, age, exposure to asbestos, etc. Given that you are a non-smoker the chances that this is cancer is low, however, still we cannot rule it out completely. In midwest area there is a high prevalence of fungal infection of the lung that can appear as nodule also. The only way to find out what this nodule is to do a biopsy, however, it is very difficult to biopsy these nodules less than 1cm in size.

In your case, the best approach would be to do serial CT scans of chest every 3-6 months for a period of two years. The idea is to determine if the nodule gets bigger or changes shape. Sometimes, it may disappear completely if it is infection. If it is tumor, as it gets bigger it can then be biopsied or removed surgically. If it stays unchanged for two years then it is most likely (not 100%) not cancer.

Thanks.

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Response by:

Shaheen  Islam, MD, MPH Shaheen Islam, MD, MPH
Clinical Associate Professor
Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
Hematology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University