A Lung nodule refers to a “white spot,” or “lump” in your lung that is 3 centimetres or smaller in diameter. Similar to how women (or even men) can develop lumps in their breasts, a lump or several lumps can also appear in their lungs. A main difference to note, however, is that breast lumps can be self-examined and felt, while lung nodules can’t, as they are hidden behind a ribcage in our chests.
Is an X-ray enough to detect a nodule
CT scans are generally more accurate in picking up a nodule (a lump or spot) in your lungs compared to a chest X-ray – with 5 out of 500 CT scans detecting a nodule, compared to only 1 in 500 X-rays. This is because a nodule needs to be at least one centimeter in size before they can be seen on a chest X-ray, whereas nodules as small as one millimeter can be seen on a CT scan .
Should I worry about lung nodules if I’m not a smoker?
Studies have shown that about half of smokers over the age of 50 years old have chest nodules detected in their CT scans. Furthermore, there is a 50% chance of lung nodules being cancerous in persons over the age of 50 years old, compared to 1% in persons who are younger than 35 years old. Factors such as long history of smoking (smoking at least 20 cigarettes a day for 15-20 years) or having a nodule of specific shape can provide clues as to whether a nodule is cancerous or not. However, it is worth noting that such factors are merely indicators that do not provide confirmation on the exact nature of the nodule. Hence, a biopsy (taking a small sample of the nodule) is always necessary for further confirmation, because lung nodules can still be cancerous in a person who has never smoked in his or her life.
With all that being said, about 60 percent of lung nodules often turn out to be non-cancerous. Even if a lung nodule is diagnosed as cancerous, there is still a good chance that it can be cured because it is likely to be in the cancer’s early stages. Do note that it is of utmost importance to find out what the nodule is made up of, regardless of whether you are a smoker or not. You’ll be surprised to find out that, as of today, more former smokers and never-smokers have been found to develop lung cancer compared to smokers.
Early detection is key
Anyone who has a set of lungs can get lung cancer regardless of his or her smoking habit, and in fact, lung cancer has been significantly increasing among young women who have never smoked. As there are no symptoms associated with lung nodule, detection is solely dependent on how proactive you are in looking for it. Unfortunately, this is compounded by the fact that the Asian countries do not prioritise population-based cancer screening guidelines for the lungs, compared to screening for breast, colon, and cervical cancer– which helps to detect the cancer early.
What happens when nodules are detected on my X-ray?
In order to identify whether a nodule on your X-ray is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), your doctor will first want to examine and compare amongst any of your previous X-rays. Further tests may not be needed if the nodule or nodules have been identified to have been present for a long period of time. A chest CT scan, on the other hand, will be conducted if you have not done any chest X-rays in the past.
Remember – getting early detection is always better than finding the cure. If you have not done so yet, book an appointment with us for a checkup of your lungs today.
Nodules can be seen in the lungs of two different patients, as indicated by the yellow arrows in the CT scans above.