Solitary Pulmonary Lung Nodules

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Solitary Pulmonary Nodule

UW Health thoracic surgeons diagnose and treat all types of lung nodules in our Solitary Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic.


About Lung Nodules


Lung nodules are masses which are often found on a chest X-ray and can be early indicators of cancer, infection, or other lung diseases such as Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF). A lung nodule may also just be a noncancerous growth (a hamartoma). 

Lung nodules must be thoroughly evaluated, diagnosed, and treated appropriately. Even if the nodule presents no immediate threat, it must be regularly monitored for any change.


Screening and Diagnosis


Solitary Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic staff use previous chest X-rays and CT scans as helpful comparisons for determining concerning characteristics or growth patterns and potential cause of the nodule. Your initial evaluation will consist of a physical examination and additional tests. These tests may include:

Our expert radiologists, physicians, and surgeons will then assess the results of your tests and make recommendations for your care.


Is the nodule cancerous?


Solitary Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic staff use the following creteria to determine if a lung nodule is diseased:

  • Nodule growth rate: Nodules that take between one month and one year to double in size may be malignant (cancerous). Nodules that take less than one month or more than one year to double in size tend to be benign.
  • Nodule borders: Malignant nodules have irregular, elongated borders. Benign nodules have well-defined borders.
  • Nodule size: Small nodules (less than two centimeters) tend to be benign. Larger nodules (greater than two centimeters) have a greater likelihood of malignancy.
  • Calcification: Calcification patterns described as central, popcorn or homogenous are likely benign. Malignant nodules have eccentric calcification.

What's next?

  • If the lung nodule does not pose an immediate concern, we may ask you to return to clinic for follow-up and repeat imaging. At each visit, Solitary Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic staff will determine whether the nodule has changed or any new disease is present. 
  • If the lung nodule has changed in size or shows disease, we will make recommendations for the most appropriate treatment plan.

Surgical Treatment for Lung Nodules


UW Health offers numerous surgical treatments for lung disease.

  • For patients with concerning solitary pulmonary nodules, our surgeons can perform a number of minimally-invasive procedures to remove them. This can include removing just the nodule, which is called a limited resection. Or, for larger nodules or more centrally-located nodules, removal of more lung tissue may be necessary. This is called a lobectomy. Learn more about surgery for lung cancer
  • For patients with pulmonary fibrosis or other lung diseases, alternative treatments may be more appropriate. This is because the disease affects the entire lung, not just one area.