Indeterminate Lung Nodules

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If you have a lung nodule, you're likely worried about what that means for your health. You'll want to come to UVA Health for answers. We have the expertise to determine whether a lung nodule is cancer or just something we need to keep an eye on. 

Lung nodules are small, roundish growths in the lung. Usually not cancerous, nodules can result from scarring, inflammation, or infection. But sometimes indeterminate lung nodules are either early lung cancer or a cancer that's spread from another part of your body.

How We Find Lung Nodules

We've been finding lung nodules more often due to the increased use of chest 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 (biopsy) to know if you have cancerous lung nodules.

How we do a 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.

But if you do need a biopsy, UVA Health experts have the tools to access lung nodules even in the most difficult areas to reach in the lungs.

Pioneers in Removing Indeterminate Lung Nodules

Often, using regular imaging scans in the operating room, we don't see these small nodules. Instead, at UVA Health, we do a procedure called radiotracer-guided localization.

Using a tiny needle under CT imaging 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. We use a gamma camera to see the nodules. We then remove the nodules in the operating room.

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