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What is the treatment for a nodule detected during lung cancer screening?

Surveillance is the most common treatment for a nodule detected during lung cancer screening, depending on the size and characteristics of the nodule. Sometimes biopsy and occasionally surgery follow a very suspicious nodule identified during a screening exam. All efforts are made to proceed with the least invasive next steps in diagnosing nodules.

If your nodule is 5 millimeters (mm) or smaller, we know now from tens of thousands of patients there's a 99 percent chance that this is not cancer. You’ll need to have another scan in a year, and we will compare it to the previous scan to see if there are changes.

To date, no 5-mm or smaller nodule that was seen on an initial scan has become a cancer. Does that mean that it can’t ever? No, it just means that the odds are so low that it doesn’t warrant scanning again any sooner than in one year. If the nodule is larger—up to 8 mm—you will need to get a scan again in three to six months. If it’s larger than 8 mm, our treatment depends on where the nodule is and your risk factors. We discuss this and we review the scans with the radiologist. Still, the majority of these nodules require no immediate treatment. When they get over 1 centimeter—about the size of a dime—we do a biopsy.

Dr. Brian D. Gelbman, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

Lung nodules are common, but there are different courses of screening, observation and treatment based on the size and rate of growth. Watch pulmonologist Brian Gelbman, MD, discuss the various options and details involved in treating lung nodules.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.