Small Nodule on CT Scan

Last Modified: December 8, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have a ct scan once a year because of asbestos exposure years ago. Earlier this month a small spot- 2mm - showed up. My lung doctor wants to wait six months and take another ct scan. I am 60 years old and in fair shape. I did smoke but now have quit. What would you do?


Anil Vachani, MD, Pulmonologist & Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Finding small spots (or nodules) on Chest CT is a very common event - approximately 20-40% of individuals will be found to have lung nodules on a Chest CT. Most of these nodules found by CT are benign, and not due to cancer. The risk of lung cancer very much depends on the size of the nodule. We know that nodules that are 2mm in size have a very low risk of lung cancer, but in individuals who are current or previous smokers, the nodule should be monitored to make sure the nodule is not growing. The formal recommendation for a nodule less than 5mm in size in a former or current smoker is to have a follow-up CT in 1 year. However, the timing of the next scan should be individualized for each patient based on an assessment by your physician.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat. View the entire Lung Cancer Q&A transcript here.