What Causes Lung Nodules and How Can You Prevent Them?

Written By: Kent Hospital on April 22, 2021

Also called a pulmonary nodule, a lung nodule is a round growth found in the lung, typically only a few millimeters in circumference, that may form in the lung for various reasons.

What Causes Lung Nodules?

Lung nodules form for various reasons; most often, it's just the result of inflammation or that the nodules are scarring due to an older infection. Lung nodules like these are generally considered to be safe and rarely require any medical intervention. 

Sometimes, however, the lung nodules result from cancerous cells clumping in masses in the lungs, often due to exposure to carcinogens. 

Can Benign Lung Nodules Cause Health Problems?

In rare cases, nodules can restrict vital blood flow by blocking veins or arteries. Specialists may recommend surgery to restore blood flow to the affected tissue to prevent it from dying. Benign lung nodules are not generally a health risk, especially when they are small. 

Most nodules are discovered by accident when they are revealed on a scan searching for something else. Most often, the nodule has been there for years and has gone unnoticed and has not affected the patient's ability to breathe or circulate blood. Doctors may seek to 'watch' lung nodules by taking multiple scans over time to see if they grow. Nodules that do not grow are of little to no risk. 

Problems and Prevention

Lung nodules are unfelt and typically go unnoticed by the patient until a scan of the lungs is done and reveals lung nodules' presence. There are two types; benign and malignant. What each type means for a patient's diagnosis and treatments varies greatly.

When a scan of the lungs reveals lung nodules' presence, the doctor may recommend a test to see if the nodules are malignant tumors.

Malignant pulmonary nodules indicate cancer and will require medical attention and surgery. There are many ways to reduce the likelihood of malignant lung nodules and improve overall lung health:

  • Stop Smoking/Don't start
  • Engage in exercises that promote lung health like running, yoga, hiking, etc. 
  • Always use proper safety equipment and procedures when using potentially dangerous chemicals or working around fumes to protect your lungs from chemical exposure that could result in scarring or exposure to carcinogens.

Recovery Options

Benign lung nodules typically do not require direct treatment. As mentioned, there are many reasons benign lung nodules might form, such as inflammation, scarring from injury, or bacterial infection. If the formation of the nodules is recent and due to something like an infection, the infection will be treated, which may allow the lungs to recover and repair, removing any need to address the nodules directly. 

How a patient recovers from benign lung nodules varies largely depending on the root cause and the prescribed treatment. In most cases, surgery is only necessary in rarer cases where there is a danger of pneumonia or a blockage. 

Malignant lung nodules are the worst-case scenario, and the primary reason doctors suggest testing when they see pulmonary nodules on a lung scan. Proper treatment of these kinds of lung nodules requires additional diagnosis to identify cancer and see if it has spread. The total scope of the treatment would depend on the diagnosis.

Concerned about the presence of lung nodules? Contact Pulmonary Medicine at Kent Hospital. 

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