If your doctor has said that your chest X-ray has revealed a “spot” on your lung, you most likely have some understandable concerns about it. You’re probably wondering if you could have lung cancer.
While a spot on the lung – also called a nodule – may be an early warning sign of lung cancer, it’s often not cancerous. Some of the most common causes of these nodules include a prior fungal or bacterial infection.
In this blog, NYC pulmonologist, Dr. Marc Bowen will explain who you should see if your X-ray shows a spot on your lung.
What is an abnormal X-ray?
A chest X-ray is performed for a variety of reasons. Your doctor may order one if you’ve been injured in an accident or go to the emergency room while experiencing chest pain. It may also be ordered if you’re experiencing symptoms, such as a persistent cough or shortness of breath that may be connected to problems in your chest. In the course of evaluating your X-ray, a spot may be identified.
This X-ray may be given at an imaging center or hospital. Not all lung cancers will be visible on an X-ray, but if your X-ray shows no spots, it’s very likely that you don’t have cancer.
If a nodule is identified on your X-ray, your doctor will most likely utilize one or more of the following scans to get information:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which helps look for high cellular activity – a possible indication of cancer or active inflammation
In addition, if you’ve had a scan in the past, be sure to let your doctor know so that the two scans can be compared. If you had a nodule years ago and it hasn’t grown or has shrunk in size, which probably indicates that it’s not a cause for concern.
The appearance of a lung spot on an X-ray is very common and typically indicates a benign condition. In fact, one or more small nodules will be found in about 50% of chest X-rays, and the vast majority will be benign. Some of these will be caused by other issues, such as marks or scars left from previous infections.
Most nodules are less than 10 millimeters in size, and those that are less than five millimeters (about one-fifth of an inch) are almost certainly benign. Smaller nodules are more likely to be benign than larger ones, and spots that are more than two centimeters large as classified as masses, not nodules.
When should you be concerned?
The presence of a nodule isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, because they’re found in about half of all chest C-rays performed. It may warrant further investigation or monitoring, however.
A solitary nodule that appears on a chest X-ray may be an early sign of lung cancer, but only your doctor can determine this for sure.
Certain factors can increase the likelihood that a solo spot on a lung X-ray indicates cancer. These include:
- Age: If you’re age 50 or older, there’s a greater chance that your nodule is cancerous. The chances are about 50% if you’re in this age group, while if you’re younger than 35, the likelihood that a nodule is cancerous drops to about 1%.
- Smokers: Although non-smokers can get lung cancer, smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Asbestos exposure: Previous exposure to asbestos increases your risk of lung cancer.
- Family history: If your family has a history of lung cancer, you may be more likely to develop the disease.
Who should you see for a spot on your lung?
When faced with an abnormal chest X-ray, patients have many questions and concerns. Getting answers and an explanation of what’s causing the nodule is of primary importance. At MXBowen, Physician P.C., Health & Breathing Center, we are here for you – to provide diagnostic testing, the expertise of specialists, and peace of mind.
Dr. Marc Bowen is an experienced pulmonologist who’s known for providing compassionate care with a reassuring bedside manner, as well as for the wide range of diagnostic testing options offered in-office.
He’ll evaluate your condition and determine what tests may need to be performed. Once a diagnosis has been made, Dr. Bowen will provide you with an explanation of your condition in simple, easy-to-understand terms and answer any questions you might have.
If your chest X-ray has revealed the presence of a spot or nodule, schedule an appointment today to get the answers you need.