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What are Multiple Pulmonary Nodules?

By M. DePietro
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Multiple pulmonary nodules are small round growths on the lung. A related issue, called multiple bilateral pulmonary nodules, are growths that have developed on both lungs. The lung nodules may be caused by various conditions, such as lung lesions, infections, and certain lung diseases.

The nodules may show up on a chest X-ray as small, white shadows. Some medical professionals will refer to them as lung spots. They tend to be around 0.19 to 0.98 inches (5 to 25 mm) wide. It isn't always obvious from just an X-ray as to what's causing them, so further testing may be needed.

One cause of multiple pulmonary nodules is cancer, which could develop in the lungs or spread there from another, original tumor site. Benign or non-cancerous tumors can also cause them. The size of the nodules will help a physician make a diagnosis. Although any nodule can be cancerous, multiple lung nodules less than 0.98 inches (25 mm) are often benign and not caused by cancer. Lung infections, like pneumonia, can also be a cause.

Diseases that lead to inflammation in the lungs, such as Wegener's granulomatosis, can cause multiple pulmonary nodules to develop as well. People who work around a large amount of dust or other lung irritants, such as coal, can develop occupational lung disease. This condition may also be referred to as pneumoconiosis.

People with multiple lung nodules might not have any symptoms, and since they are small, they may not interfere with breathing. When there are very large numbers of nodules, a person may have coughing and shortness of breath.

Treatment will depend on what caused the nodules. Benign ones that don't cause symptoms may not need treatment. Cancerous tumors may be watched closely to see if they grow. If treatment is needed, surgery may be done.

There are several surgical procedures to remove multiple pulmonary nodules, and which one is performed may depend on the number of nodules and their location. A bronchoscopy may be performed, which involves inserting a scope into the lungs to see the growths. Additional surgical procedures to remove the nodules include a thoracotomy, which involves cutting through the chest to remove the nodules. When fewer nodules are present, a mini-thoracotomy may be an option. Since a small incision is used at the exact location of the nodules, it is considered minimally invasive.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005463 — On Sep 02, 2021

I am sure that was pretty scary. Glad you are okay.

By jcraig — On Aug 22, 2011

Are the pulmonary nodules always made of calcium, or can other things form them, too. I would image the calcified nodules are solid, but could there be soft ones?

What are all of the typical symptoms when someone has pulmonary nodules? Is there any difference between people with benign nodules or a malignant lung tumor? Finally, what are the lung cancer symptoms someone should look for?

By Emilski — On Aug 22, 2011

@Izzy78 - Luckily, I did have insurance, so I got off easy on most of the bill. I don't work anywhere where I would be around dust or other conditions like the article talked about, but I do live in Indiana.

The doctor didn't say specifically what could have caused it, just that they were little balls of calcium. At the time, I was drinking a lot of milk every day, so I always wondered if that had anything to do with it. I've never heard of the fungus you mentioned, so I might have to read up on that.

By Izzy78 — On Aug 21, 2011

@Emilski - I hope you had some good insurance! I'm sure a visit like that wasn't cheap. When you went to the hospital, did they keep you there for observation, or did you get to leave the same day?

Also, I'm curious if they gave you any indication of what the cause was? Did you work in any of the conditions the article says might cause pulmonary nodules?

I found this article after reading an interesting story about a fungus that is common around rivers in the Midwest like the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. The spores of the fungus can travel several hundred miles. When they are breathed in, they cause nodules to form around the lungs. Fortunately, they don't usually cause severe problems.

By Emilski — On Aug 20, 2011

I once ended up with nodules on my lungs. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night with chest pains. The first time, I didn't think much of it, but after it happened the second time, I started to worry that maybe I was having heart problems of some sort. I was only 20 at the time.

I went to the hospital the next day to get everything checked out. I went through an EKG and X-ray, which is when the doctors decided my heart was fine, but I had calcified nodules around my left lung. Apparently they were putting pressure on my rib cage and causing the pain. Just to make sure everything else was okay, I had to have a CT scan.

The whole thing was very scary at first, but luckily it turned out to be something fairly minor. They didn't have any reason to think the nodules were cancerous, so they just told me to take some ibuprofen for a few days. I didn't have any problems after that.

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