Lung (Pulmonary) Nodules and CT screening for Lung Cancer – Overview 

What is a lung nodule?

Lung nodules, also called pulmonary nodules, are round or oval spots in the lungs discovered with chest x-rays or CT scans. Studies of patients undergoing CT scans of the chest to screen for lung cancer have shown that more than 50% of patients will have at least one lung nodule. Below is an example of such a nodule.

Woodlands Medical Specialists Facts About Lung Nodules

a) Chest X-Ray
b) CT scan of the chest


What causes a lung nodule?

Most lung nodules are not cancerous (benign) and are caused by prior infections or scars from long-term exposure to air pollutants.  Some nodules are caused by cancer.  Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancerous (malignant) lung nodules; however, cancers from other parts of the body can also spread to the lungs and cause lung nodules.

What are the symptoms of a lung nodule?

Most patients experience no symptoms from lung nodules.

How do I know if my lung nodule is benign or malignant?

Your physician may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation of a newly discovered lung nodules. At Woodlands, our oncologists have special training in performing a comprehensive assessment of your cancer risk and will evaluate the size and appearance of the nodules on our CT scan to determine the difference between benign and malignant nodules.  Most nodules do not require further invasive testing, such as bronchoscopy or biopsy, to determine whether they are benign or malignant.

How will my lung nodule be treated?

Most lung nodules simply require a repeat CT scan to ensure they are not changing or growing in size. If there is any doubt that a nodule is malignant, our oncologists will order a PET (positron emission tomography) scan. A PET scan is a very specialized imaging study that can detect rapidly growing malignant tumors. Using the results of the PET scan, your oncologist may recommend a biopsy of any nodules that appear to be malignant for definitive diagnosis.

Should I have a CT Lung Cancer Screening?

You need to have a CT lung screening if you meet answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • I am between the ages of 55-77
  • I have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • I have smoked for 30 years or more
  • I am a current smoker or I have quit smoking within the past 15 years

Will my insurance company pay for CT Lung Cancer Screening?

At this time Medicare and some private insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, are paying for low dose CT scans to screen for lung cancer.  To learn more about our Early Detection Lung Screening Program, all our lung navigator at 850.696.4423.