Oncology (General Cancer)/lung nodule


QUESTION: Hi,recently had a lung CT scan as a 35 year smoker,60 y/o white female in otherwise good health.,1 nodule found to be a 5.40 mm described as ground glass nodule.They recommended follow up in 6 months ,I am so apprehensive that I am now going in 3 months for a re-scan.What determines that it is cancer? as of now there saying likely benign,less than a 4% chance of malignancy.Is it growth rate ,size? I have no symptoms.Should I see a chest surgeon for a biopsy ASAP or wait?Help I am so scared and preoccupied with this finding that I need to act.Thanks  LJ

ANSWER: Your doctors are following the standard protocol for evaluating a lung nodule under 1 cm in diameter.  This is both safe and avoids unnecessary surgery.  If the lung nodule increases in size, (>25%) this would be a reason for removing it.  If it stays the same, it probably isn't cancer.  As for getting a biopsy sooner, a surgeon isn't going to open your chest for a lesion this size; and it is very unlikely that someone could hit it with a needle, to do a needle biopsy.  Plus both would risk collapsing the lung, etc.  
Most of the time asymptomatic nodules in smokers turn out to be inflammatory.  You might give up smoking and see if the inflammation recedes.  

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QUESTION: Dr. thank you for your timely answer.I have quit smoking its amazing what the fear of cancer can do for addiction!!you said a 1 cm nodule,mine is listed in the lung screening as 5.40 mm is that the same? Also if it is an inflammation from smoking how long to go away? or will it show on the next scan? is there medication for a possible inflammation/ again thanks for what you do!!! Linda J.

5.4 mm is about 1/2 a cm.  It may go away with time, but the important thing is that it not grow.  Many people in their 60's will have lung abnormalities even when they didn't smoke.  Give it time and see what happens.  Let me know about the results of your next scan.  I don't think there is any medication that will reverse a lung nodule caused by inflammation.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

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America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

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