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Lung diseases

Cloudy X-Ray

05/23/2011

Question:

My mom was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia back in late December. After a round of antibiotics, she felt much better but the x-ray still showed pneumonia. A round of stronger antibiotics were then given to her. She went back for a follow up x-ray last week and the x-ray now shows the pneumonia is in both lungs. The strange thing is...she has NO symptoms. No coughing, no fever, nothing. Could it possibly be viral? or fluid? or cancer???? By the way she has never smoked in her life.

Answer:

Hello,

There are several possibilities that could be causing this abnormality seen on your mom's x-ray. Sometimes, pneumonia can occur and the effect on the chest x-ray can last for 1-2 months even after the person is getting better. However, your mom's x-ray was initially in December and the pneumonia appears worse now than then so I think we need to investigate the matter further.

Many other changes on the xray can look similar to pneumonia including heart failure, other types of infections (including fungal or mycobacterial disease such as MAC), or some types of autoimmune diseases. Cancer is very unlikely to appear as a pneumonia on a chest x-ray, but is a remote possibility so she needs to get this checked out.

Many of these diseases are treatable, especially if caught early before symptoms develop. I recommend that your mother follow-ups up with her doctor and gets a CT scan of her chest if her primary doctor feels that is appropriate. Depending on what is shown on the CT scan, they may recommend that she follows up with a lung specialist.

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Response by:

Matthew  Exline, MD Matthew Exline, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University