Information about lung nodules

This page contains information for patients who have/may have a lung nodule.

I’ve been told I have a lung nodule, what does this mean?

A lung nodule is a very small area of round shadowing, like a “spot” or “blob”, seen on a CT scan. Nodules are 3cm (1 inch)or less and do not cause any symptoms.

You may have several nodules. This is not always more serious than just having one.

How common are lung nodules? 

  • About 1 in 4 (25%) older people who smoke or who have smoked have nodules.
  • About 1 in 10 (10%) people who have never smoked may have nodules.
  • Nodules may be caused by scarring from lung infections.
  • They are common in people who have had TB in the past.

Are lung nodules cancerous? 

Most nodules are benign (non-cancerous). In a very small number of people the nodule could be an early lung cancer.

How can we find the cause? 

It is not always easy to know the cause of a nodule from just one CT scan. Because they are very small, doing a biopsy on them (taking a piece of the nodule out and examining it) can be difficult or risky.

Do all nodules grow? 

No. Benign (non-cancerous) nodules usually do not grow but cancerous ones will eventually get bigger. The best way to assess them is to repeat the CT scan after a period of time.

Even if your nodule does grow, monitoring them with repeat CT scans will allow your doctor to pick up any changes early and arrange further tests before the nodule causes symptoms or problems.

How will I get my results? 

Your CT result will be sent to your hospital consultant, usually within 4 weeks of your scan. Your consultant will then get in touch with you to let you know the result, either via a phone call, a letter, or a clinic appointment.

What happens next? 

Nodules are usually followed up for between 2 and 4 years, with CT scans every 3, 9, or 12 months. 

  • If your nodule is stable over several years, you will be discharged.
  • If your nodule grows or changes at all, your consultant may arrange for you to have more tests. This could include a special scan called a PET scan, or a biopsy.
  • If you develop any symptoms in your chest, please contact your GP. It is very unlikely that these symptoms will be caused by your nodule, but it is important to let your GP know anyway 

If I have any questions, who do I ask? 

Your GP will be kept fully informed of your progress and scan results. You should also receive a copy of all letters from your consultant. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact the Lung Navigator at North Bristol NHS Trust.

NBT Lung Navigator
Phone: 0117 424 0654

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published March 2024. Review due March 2027. NBT003679.

Information about lung nodules