Indeterminate Lung Nodules

Lung nodules are small, roundish growths in the lung. Usually non-cancerous, these nodules result from scarring, inflammation or infection.

Sometimes indeterminate lung nodules are cancer. They're either early lung cancer or a cancer that's spread from another part of your body.

We've been finding lung nodules more often due to the increased use of chest CT scans.

Diagnosis with CT Scans

We call these nodules "indeterminate," because we don't know at first if they are cancer or not. We have to get a tissue sample to know if you have cancerous lung nodules. The method we use for getting a tissue sample or biopsy depends on the nodule's location and cancer risk.

CT scans and chest X-rays also allow us to compare nodules over time. If you have nodules that haven't grown or changed in two years, you probably don't have cancer. We don't need to do a biopsy.

Treating Indeterminate Lung Nodules

Radiotracer-Guided Localization

Often, using regular scans or in the operating room, we don't see these small nodules. Using a tiny needle under CT guidance, a radiologist injects a safe, tiny amount of radiation into your lungs at the level of the nodule. This advanced type of nuclear imaging allows us to better see the tiny nodules.

Once in the nodule, the radiotracer material gives off gamma rays. Then, we use a gamma camera to see the nodules. We then  remove the nodules in the operating room.

UVA has pioneered this treatment. We have more experience with this procedure than most hospitals in the world.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.