Indeterminate Lung Nodules

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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

The radiotracer process uses a safe, tiny amount of radiation to find nodules in your lungs. Often, regular scans can't see these nodules. This advanced type of nuclear imaging allows us to see the tiny nodules.

The radiotracer procedure takes two steps. First, you get an injection of the material that will find the nodules. The radiotracer material gives off gamma rays. Then, we use a gamma camera to see the nodules. We then remove the nodules.

UVA pioneered this treatment. We have the largest experience of any hospital 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.