In approximately 40 percent of cases, lung nodules are diagnosed to be either an indication of cancer or a precursor to lung cancer. Every patient is unique, and the Beth Israel Lung Nodule Center takes into consideration all key risk factors during its patient evaluation along with the diagnostic results.
Major risk factors include:
Age: Cumulative risk increases after the age of 50.
Nodule size and shape: The likelihood that a lung nodule is malignant increases in relation to size and irregularity of shape. The more irregular the shape of the nodule, the more likely it is malignant.
Smoking status: Current and former smokers are at greater risk.
Occupation: If you have been exposed to chemicals and/or other industrial carcinogens during your professional lifetime, your risk for lung cancer is significantly increased.
Nodule growth: If the nodule is growing fast, it is more likely to be cancerous.
Non-cancerous diagnostic results:
Calcification: If the nodule contains calcium it is more likely to be benign.
Cavitation: If the interior part of the nodule appears darker on an x-ray or seems to have a hole in the center, the cause of the nodule is more likely to be infectious—and therefore, benign. This is not always the case, and further investigation is absolutely necessary in this situation to determine the cause.