What to Watch: A Guide to Abnormal Findings on a Chest Scan

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by Dr. Javier Dieguez, MD

Women get mammograms to prevent colon cancer. Men and women get colonoscopies to prevent colon cancer. Why, then, is it that lung and chest scans aren’t common practice?

Early detection of cancer in a patient between the ages of 55 and 74 increases chances of curing malignant findings, especially if the patient has a history of smoking.

Getting a film is the key to broadening treatment options. Early detection opens up more opportunities to control cancer, but pulmonologists aren’t the only doctors administering these tests. Primary Care Physicians are now suggesting them as preventative screenings too.


  • Check-in regularly with your doctor
  • Don’t let symptoms go unchecked
  • Be tested with image scanning and look over them closely with your doctor

Once you have results and a nodule is found, we will either become your team or recommend that you find a pulmonologist to work with you.

What to do with a finding

A nodule is a finding that is under 3cm. A lung mass is a finding that is over 3cm. A nodule is easier to treat and has a better prognosis than a lung mass. Finding problem areas as nodules allows your team to keep an eye on it and find out if it is benign or malignant.

Many people’s results will reveal nodules. The only way to know if a nodule is a cause for concern is to watch it for growth over time. If a nodule is normal for 2 years, it is considered benign. If the nodule shows sign of growth, additional diagnostic procedures will be required.

The Fleischner Pulmonary Nodule Guidelines are usually for follow-up and management of pulmonary nodules. They help you to follow nodules with specified information that is dependent on medical and exposure history.

When considering new findings, it is always important to compare the most recent film to a prior film to see what is new and what was preexisting. A benign nodule that was caused by outside exposure is known as a granuloma. Granulomas appear very calcified on CT results. This means they appear much more white than other types of findings. Granulomas are formed by the body encasing outside particles that have been inhaled.

Circular nodules have the best chance of being benign. Spiculated nodules will be watched closely, no matter of size.

Some cancers are hereditary. But family history of cancer doesn’t automatically mean that irregular findings will be cancerous.

In early stage cancer, surgery can be a solution in place of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. This is one reason why finding abnormalities early is crucial to fighting cancer.

Learn more from ADC. Contact us with any questions.

Hear more from Dr. Javier Dieguez, MD:

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