Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
During a recent physical examination, my physician sent me for a chest x-ray, and the x-ray tech had me repeat the frontal chest x-ray. During the follow-up appointment, my doctor said that there was a spot on my lung, but not to worry because it had calcified. A co-worker whose wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer said that it may not mean all is well, and that I should follow up in 6 months for a comparison x-ray. Should I worry about the calcified spot and request follow up tests or relax? Thank You!
Anil Vachani, MD, Attending Physician at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, responds:
First, I should clarify that a calcification seen on a mammogram, which is typically followed up with a breast biopsy, is found to be cancerous about 20% of the time.
Calcification on a chest x-ray, on the other hand, is treated differently, as it can be a sign that the nodule is benign. However, it is standard of care to judge calcification on a CAT scan of the chest. If there was a pleural calcification (which is calcification in the lining of the lung), this could mean that he has been exposed to asbestos, but either way, he should still get a chest CT scan to confirm that the spot is benign.