When physicians detect a spot during a routine chest X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan, they will investigate it to determine the cause. A lung nodule or mass typically refers to a growth occurring anywhere in the lungs. Most nodules are harmless, called benign lung tumors, and often require observation only. In this case, the doctor will likely advise patients to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, and monitor the growth over a period of months or years to see if it changes in shape or size.
However, a lung nodule “could be related to a cancer,” says Jonathan Puchalski, MD, a pulmonologist at Yale Medicine. The likelihood that a lung growth is cancerous depends upon many factors, including a patient’s age, his or her history of smoking, and exposure to potentially harmful carcinogens in the environment, such as asbestos. If cancer is detected, then it’s important seek treatment advice immediately.
The Thoracic Oncology Program (TOP) at Yale Medicine includes lung doctors, surgeons, radiologists, cancer doctors, smoking cessation experts, and others who work as a group to help determine whether a nodule or mass is likely benign or cancerous. Together we determine the appropriate investigation with a quick and thorough personalized approach.