The Beth Israel Lung Nodule Center is completely up-to-date with the latest information and research regarding the causes and management of lung nodules. Our physicians determine a patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan after a thorough and individual evaluation in order to establish the underlying cause and nature of the nodule.
Lung nodules fall into the following categories:
Benign lung nodules
Simply, a benign lung nodule is not cancerous. A benign nodule or mass will not spread to other areas of the body. However, the presence of benign nodules—especially if they are large—can cause health problems. Even benign lung nodules may have to be surgically treated and removed. The most common types of benign lung nodules include:
Granulomas: Inflamed or infected tissue that has congealed into a globular or ball-like shape.
Hamartomas: Calcifications and scarring within the lung.
Nodules from infections
Lung nodules caused by infections fall into these categories:
Bacterial infections (e.g., tuberculosis)
Fungal infections (e.g., histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis, cryptococcosis and aspergillosis)
Parasitic infections (e.g., pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in an immune deficient patient)
Nodules from inflammation and fibrosis
Conditions that cause inflammation (swelling) and fibrosis (thickening and scarring) can make you more susceptible to benign lung nodules. Such conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, rounded atelectasis, bronchogenic cycts, healed pulmonary infarcts, focal hemorrhage, hemangiomas and multiple recurrent bronchopneumonias.
Malignant lung nodules
Malignant lung nodules include lung cancers, lymphomas and cancers that have spread to the lungs (metastasized) from other parts of the body. Malignancies can be caused by:
Genetic predisposition: There can be a strong hereditary component to malignant disease.
Smoking history: It has been well-recognized and proven that increased tobacco exposure—including second hand smoke—can contribute to a much higher increase in the incidence of lung cancer.
Exposure to toxic materials: Whether at home or on the job, long-term and consistent exposure to certain toxins increases the risk for lung cancer. Cigarette use and occupational asbestos exposure is a particularly deadly combination.