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Lung Nodule Program

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Lung Nodule Program provides an innovative system of monitoring lung nodules to help patients detect lung cancer early, when it is most responsive to treatment.

What Is the Lung Nodule Program?

Our program provides an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to monitor and, if appropriate, manage lung nodules. Only a small percentage of lung nodules are of clinical concern and require invasive interventions. We created this specialized program to ensure patients with lung nodules have access to timely intervention and proper care management adherent to national guidelines.

Symptoms and Risk Factors for Lung Nodules

Lung nodules are very common and about a third of adults who get chest imaging have them. But, they are most often not a cause for concern because roughly 90% of lung nodules are benign. Lung nodules are common because they have a variety of causes, including:

  • A past illness or infection in the lungs that caused the lung tissue to become inflamed
  • Air irritants or pollutants
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Respiratory infections, such as tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary fungal infections such as valley fever

While most are benign, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood that a lung nodule is cancerous or could become cancerous. These include:

  • Being a former or current smoker
  • Older than 65
  • A family history of cancer
  • Previous radiation therapy to the chest
  • Having had exposure to asbestos, radon or secondhand smoke

Small and benign lung nodules rarely cause any symptoms at all. If you have lung nodules and you start to experience these symptoms, though, it could be an indication of early stage lung cancer and worth making an appointment with your doctor:

  • Persistent chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Constant cough that worsens over time
  • Arm or shoulder pain
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Recurring respiratory infections
  • Repeated cases of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Widening of the fingertips and nailbed, also known as clubbing

Testing and Diagnosis

When you visit the Banner MD Anderson Lung Nodule Program, you can count on our compassionate experts to answer your questions and provide some of the best care. When you visit, you can expect the following:

  • Evaluation and education from a member of the lung nodule program team.
  • Review of your case, including medical imaging of the nodule(s) by a multidisciplinary team of radiologists, interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons.
  • Assessment from a dedicated lung nodule program provider who will outline your personalized treatment and/or surveillance regimen.

If a nodule is determined to be of clinical concern, our team will coordinate appropriate medical tests and intervention(s), next steps and follow-up care while keeping you informed every step of the way.

Advanced Bronchoscopy Capabilities

The Lung Nodule Program at Banner MD Anderson has some of the most robust early diagnosis technology available to help patients identify cancerous nodules before they become untreatable. With a platform that features flexible robotics, doctors can navigate flexible endoscopes to the periphery of the lung with precise control that allows them to perform biopsies for more accurate diagnosis and assessment.

Surveillance and Treatment

Even though lung nodules are typically benign, current health guidelines recommend ongoing surveillance of lung nodules for a minimum of 2 to 5 years after detection to monitor them. If a lung nodule is found to be cancerous, there are many treatment options available to you, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and more.

Learn more about our lung cancer treatment options.

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